French director Laurent Cantet was on hand at the ArcLight on Monday night to discuss his Palme d’Or winning “The Class,” an entirely-improvised, docu-style pic set inside a middle school in Paris’ diverse 20th Arrondissement. Though Cantet described the shooting process as an attempt to “do a film in a completely democratic manner,” there was one core concept from which he never deviated.
“My first idea for the film was to stay between the walls of the school,” he noted. “A whole world could go on between those walls.”
Based on former teacher Francois Begaudeau’s autobiographical novel “Entre les murs,” the pic features Begaudeau in the lead role, as well as a cast of nonprofessional teens from nearby banlieues. Cantet discussed the loosely-guided improv sessions that comprise the film, which he captured using three HD cameras positioned around the classroom, all running simultaneously.
“Nothing was nailed down when we started shooting,” Cantet said. “We had a script that was more like an outline, with underlines on what we really wanted to get.”
The director was quick to credit Begaudeau for his contributions, noting that “he was the actor in the scene and also my double, directing the children to say what I wanted them to say.”
As to whether Begaudeau enjoyed his first stint behind the camera, Cantet couldn’t say for sure, yet he noted that in addition to his years of teaching, “Francois is also a singer in a punk group, as well as a critic for Cahiers du Cinema. So for him, acting in this film was just another adventure.”