Isabelle Adjani’s new classroom drama

Reuters have reported that  the beautiful and talented Adjani is starring in classroom drama that will be showing in the Berlin film festival, here’s what they say about it:

“La journee de la jupe” (Skirt Day) deals with the tensions over immigration, education and race that have haunted France since the 2005 riots that blew up in the shadow of the grim tower blocks that ring many French cities.

Sounds promising even if it does sound very like Dangerous Minds and comes after another French classroom drama, the highly lauded The Class by Laurent Cantet . A tough act to follow given the awards recognition and festival buzz its generated. The film is however, cited as being ‘darker’ than The Class. I will definitely want to watch this one anyway, the French just do things so well that, let’s face it, it will probably be better than Dangerous Minds.

All this classroom talk has also made me think about what is actually the best classroom films of all time here’s mine anyway:

1. Dead Poet’s Society (1989): Who could forget Robin William’s performance in this as radical and inspiring teacher John Keating. His role set the standard for all cliched inspiring teacher movies that would follow in it’s wake.  This film really made him and acts as a reminder after countless sentimental dross (not counting of course excellent performances in Good Will Hunting, One Hour Photo and Insomnia) as to what he can really do. It also features some standout performances from the likes of Ethan Hawke in his third film role playing the impressionable and sensitive Todd Anderson.

2. Etre Et Avoir (2002): A fascinating, intimate and beautifully filmed documentary detailing one teacher Georges Lopez’s small one-room primary school in rural France. The problems that these children have to overcome (such as being expected to work on the farm which could get in the way of their education) and the evident love that the pupil’s and teacher have for one another. Such a shame Lopez had to go and sue the director Nicolas Phillibert for more money afterwards.

3. Notes On A Scandal (2006): An engaging film which explores the moral consequences of  sleeping with a pupil. The performances from Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench are superb. Dench in particular portraying the frustrations and anger of a lonely and repressed old woman with at times terrifying potency. Whilst still managing to give hr character sympathy even as she gets more manically obssesed with Cate’s character Sheba.

4. Mean Girls (2004): I thought before I saw this fim that I definately would not like it but it managed to surprise me, the fact that it was written by Tina Fey probably helps. It’s still full of high school stereotypes (the jock, the geek etc. etc.) but Lohan gives her best performance as ingenue Cady. And it documents well the initimidating aspects of school and the desperate need that teenagers have to fit in and belong.

5. Rushmore (1998): An amusing and quirky look at one geek’s, Max Fisher (Jason Schwartzman), obssesion with his beautiful teacher (Olivia Williams in one of her best roles). As usual for a Wes Anderson film  the music’ s great too. And it’s got Bill Murray in it. Enough said.

6. Clueless (1995): A biting satire of 90’s youth culture. Even if it is a little dated now.

7. Heathers (1988): A briliantly dark  film with great turns from Christian Slater and Winona Ryder, taking to the extremes the resentment and bitterness that resides in the popularity of some classmates over others.

8. Thumbsucker (2005): An underrated gem which explores the disgust that surrounds an inward 17-year old  boy Justin (Lou Taylor Pucci) who continues to suck his thumb despite the problems this causes.  It also explores the dangers of misdiagnosing people  and the dangers of oversuscribing ADD as an easy option to any problem. Vince Vaughn is brilliant as the teacher who supervises the debating team Justin joins to combat his socially-awkward problem. While Keanu Reeves reveals some comedic talent playing a hippie New Age dentist who tries to help Justin by telling him to think of his ‘power animal’. While Tilda Swinton is at her usual best as Justin’s concerned and sceptical mum.

I have yet to see The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie, Goodbye, Mr Chips (1939 or 1969 version) The Children’s Hour, The Choir but they would’ve probably made the list if I’d seen them. There was also an amazing French film which was set in a mysterious girls school where the girls wore red ribbons in their hair, and girls reaching puberty were taken away from the other girls. But for the life of me I can’t remember it’s name. Anyone have any idea? And anyone else have something to add to the list?

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