Upon first laying eyes on this, I thought it was more of an examination of the historical dominance of European literature, and suppression, whether intentional or not, of works by and about people of African descent, in junior high as well as high school classrooms, and the long-term effects of that occurrence, explored on a micro-level.
Alas, it’s not; not quite anyway; instead it’s more of a broader attempt to connect classical literature to contemporary teenage life, as the filmmaker, Frenchman Régis Sauder, juxtaposes the narrative of a classic 17th century French novel, La Princesse de Clèves, which is said to have been taught in French classrooms for decades, against the lives of the diverse population of students it’s taught to, made up of predominantly working-class and immigrant families.
Still I’m intrigued, and it actually doesn’t sound so far off from what I hoped it would be. So, if it comes my way, I’d definitely check it out.
The film is screening at the San Francisco International Film Festival, which started just yesterday, and Michael Guillen, member of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle, describes it as “an unforced inspection of a lower-tier school in Marseille whose students are studying the literary classic La Princesse de Clèves — recently revived in the French public consciousness by disparaging remarks made by President Nicolas Sarkozy — in preparation for their baccalaureate exam. In a surprisingly inspired bit of filmmaking, passages from the novel act as a formal device, sectioning the film into metaphorical frameworks for director Sauder and his subjects to organize their thoughts on school, sex, and sociality within not only the subjective context of their teenage years but also within the wide swath of France’s marginalized ethnic communities.”
The below trailer is in French, without subtitles, so until I find one with English subtitles, this’ll have to do; unless one of our French speakers out there would like to translate for the rest of us…