コラム：パリジェンヌの東京映画レポート2 - 第2回
Directed by Laurent Cantet, "Entre les Murs" is the first French film to win the Palme d’or at Cannes since 1987. This movie, which tells the story of a French class in the 20th arrondissement of Paris, was praised for its energy, the spontaneity of the young actors’ performances and a story which portrays a class of 14 years old pupils in a credible and real, but still funny way.
In France the movie attracted more than a million spectators the first three weeks of its release in theaters. The success soon followed abroad…and the rewarded feature film came all the way to Japan where it has now been on screen for a while!
I reckon that Japanese people are always thirsty for knowledge about France, rare are those who don’t wish to go there one day. On top of that, the fact that the film got such a high reward as the Palme d’or does contribute to its success around the world. But is this enough to explain why “Entre les murs” is appreciated by the Japanese audience?
Based on a true story written by a former teacher -Francois Begaudeau, who played himself in the movie -“Entre les murs” is on the halfway between a documentary and a pure fiction, and this accounts without any doubt for its great success. From the beginning of the story on, I felt that I was immediately emerged in this universe, this microcosm, which stays the same during the whole film: the classroom, the teacher’s room and the court are almost the only places where Cantet’s protagonists evolve. You are carried away in a self-contained world, “between walls”, as the French title suggests it. When the teachers make their self-presentations at the beginning, you are almost waiting for your turn to step forward and make your own presentation.
Being so close to the happening makes the spectator feel the story is real, and the spontaneous dialogues between the teenagers and the teacher only add to this impression.
For a French spectator like me, this movie could seem at the first sight as a way of denouncing a social issue. But Laurent Cantet managed to avoid stereotypes and to make of this film more than just a social portrait of a Parisian teenager class.
While the French audience is familiar with the melting pot of this Parisian class, the Japanese audience is immersed in a quite new universe. Most of the kids in this movie come from immigrant backgrounds and this is what accounts for the richness of the scenario. This makes the movie even more interesting for Japanese people as it is a situation they are not often confronted with.
On top of that, “Entre les murs” tells the story of a class in Paris, as the Japanese title-“Paris 20 Ku Bokutachino Kurasu” (“our class in the 20th Parisian arrondissement”) -underlines it. For Japanese people, Paris is the fashion city, the romantic French capital, they imagine cobbled streets as seen in “Amelie Poulain” and dream of beautiful and rewarding visits to the Louvre…. More than one Japanese may be surprised of seeing a completely different aspect of Paris: constant provocations between teachers and their pupils, young people searching for their identity in a country they don’t always consider as their home and sometimes asserting themselves through violence or an insolent behaviour. The good news for those who may fear to fall prey to the so-called “Paris syndrome” (that is what some Japanese tourists suffer when they discover that Parisians can be rude or that the city does not meet their expectations) is that this movie conveys this Parisian image in a funny and always entertaining way. Thanks to the budding actors’ skills and the performance of Francois Begaudeau, whose real life teaching experience lends his acting a calm credibility, each lesson becomes a pleasure to watch…even for those who may be chocked by the lack of discipline of some students or carried along by the serious difficulties some of the kids are into!
“Entre les murs”, a French movie which might surprise more than once the Japanese audience, but isn’t cinema there to make you discover new things and to show you sometimes unexpected realities?