Saturday, October 25, 2008

Slow, always beautiful, often funny, never tedious.

Être et Avoir. A hard film to sell - except perhaps to teachers, or parents of primary school age children.

A fly on the wall documentary in which the director, Nicolas Philibert, portrays the home and school life of 13 children in a one-room village school in rural Auvergne. We follow the children and their avuncular teacher through the 3 seasons of the school year - we learn, clearly to the children's concern, that it is the autumn of Mr Lopez's career and that he is soon to retire.

So far so dull, huh?

George Lopez has completely mastered his chosen work, utterly utterly brilliant at teaching small children. It's always a pleasure watching something done with effortless perfection, no matter what. Watch him discuss infinity with Jojo, watch him shape mutual respect from mutual contempt after a playground scuffle, watch him talk to a distraught boy about a grave family illness, watch him foil a bank robbery by nudging the fleeing Aston Martin off a cliff with the wing-tip of his biplane. No - not the last one, no car chase.

So hard to describe why this film works, I can't even find a worthy review to link to. It astonished all concerned by taking 2 million euros at the box office, this for a snail's pace documentary. It is quite special. Give it 20 minutes - I bet you finish it.

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