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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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This is a film about a French primary teacher and his small class of pupils. That's all it is. Georges Lopez is the teacher - not an actor, this is a documentary - and he has a class of 12 aged 4 to 10. He comes across as greatly skilled and very dedicated. He is in his last year of teaching, and the accumulated wisdom of his experience is needed to guide the children, who all have difficulties of one sort or another to face, safely through the school year. It is visually beautiful, very funny in places, extremely poignant in others, deftly and subtly directed, and seems extraordinarily natural from beginning to end - there is great film-making skill here. I am very aware that words just don't do it justice. It is enchanting, and if you haven't seen it, you should!
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on 27 June 2005
A documentary film which follows a year in the life of a French schoolteacher who runs, and lives above, a small rural school in the Auvergne. This is rugged, beautiful countryside - good farming country if you are prepared to work and recognise that the weather will rarely be your friend. Shot almost entirely within the confines of the school, we nevertheless understand that farming is a dawn till dusk, 365 day a year business and that the children will be working on the farm before they venture to school for the first time ... and every day after they return from it. Children grow up fast in the country.
This is fly-on-the-wall stuff, a chronicle of the lives of Georges Lopez and his dozen pupils. It is shot with such grace, it is shot so unobtrusively, it makes the vast, fashionable bulk of reality television look like reprehensible trash. The people in this film are not posing and preening themselves for the camera. What we get, instead, is honesty and humanity.
We watch the kids having fights, struggling to grasp concepts, sometimes bored, sometimes excited, playing and working, just being natural. George Lopez comes across as a man who is passionate about his work - he can be sternly assertive at times, but his approach is based around rational discourse, about explaining and listening to explanation, about encouraging the children to think and not simply to behave.
We learn little about Monsieur Lopez - the son of a Spanish immigrant labourer who rose in station by becoming a teacher, he has been in the profession for some thirty years, has occupied his present position for twenty ... and is about to retire. We watch the older children being introduced to the new, bigger school they will attend after the summer, we watch the arrival of the new intake of tiny ones, but we do not know where M.Lopez will go. Will he be allowed to stay on in his rooms above the school? Will he feel he has to move?
As much as anything, this is a film about the nature of rites de passage, about process. We all go through changes in our lives, all have to face those moments when we enter a new school for the first time. It's a process which continues from birth to death, it's a process which can be made so much easier if there is rational explanation and discussion to parallel the emotion and salve the fear.
In an era where it is so difficult, as a male, to be allowed to relate to children without eyebrows being raised, this is an evocative expression of caring and generosity of spirit. It is a plea for patience, for encouragement, for listening to others, for motivating others and helping them learn, for tolerance, for sharing. A beautiful, surprising film which will spin you deep into its web of charm and to which you can return again and again.
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on 18 January 2006
Slow yourself down, sit comfortably and quietly...and enjoy pure cinematic delight. No gimmicks or plot, no shocks or surprises. Just documentary film-making at its best.
It looks deceptively simple, and will touch you in the simplest and purest way. For a while you are truly in the heart of someone else's life - someone who cares about the small, deeply important things.
Once you have seen this film, you will always smile at the sight of Jo-Jo on the cover. The memory will enrich your life for a moment, which is as good as it gets in my opinion.
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on 27 December 2004
Etre et Avoir is a marvellous and extremely likeable film.
The continuous comparison between the changing seasons and the development of the school children is beautiful and completely unclichéd.
The school children, both in the school and at home are magical. Some have cast doubt over the authenticity of the scenes where parents work with their children. Whether these scenes are truly real or not- the actions in the classroom are clearly pure and untouched by the director.
This is essentially a documentary, but there are so many fascinating switches between different scenes and the changes of the main subject matter. We look at the life of young school children, then the older children, then the older children who will soon leave for secondary school. We see pupil interaction with their peers and their wonderful teacher- who we then learn even more about.
Basically- completely absorbing. Plus the French is so simple in much of the film, that people with a relatively sound knowledge can understand it quite easily without captions- which is quite a confidence boost for learners!
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on 25 November 2003
A documentary about a small French school does not sound like fodder for the entry paying English speaking cinema audience, but this little gem really works.
It's secret is in the waiting. This has not just taken a year to make it has taken hours of editing. The children are unaware of the camera and it is the eccentricity of youth that propels its entertainment value across the language/culture diivde. So we see a four year old artfully plea for his playtime to be restored and the collective fear felt by the school as it visits the secondary college, that some of the class will be attending the following year.
All life is here; birth, death, laughter tears, not least from the very accomplished teacher as he says goodbye to his charges at the end of the academic year.
There is nothing more moving than the truth and this is a convincing testament, for this reviewer anyway, of why a career working with children has so many benefits beyond the salary cheque.
For this reason it is an inspiration.
The extras are negligible unless you are obsessive about technical details.
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on 13 November 2010
My wife and I watched this last week and absolutely loved the film. There were definite parts in the 'documentary' that were staged and these moments are very obvious. This was outweighed however by the many parts that are very real, up-close and personal in the movie. The lives of the children and families were endearing to watch. Upon finishing it I was very excited to know more about the movie so did some surfing on the net. I found however that there is a lot more going on behind the scenes than what just watching the movie might reveal. Apparently the main 'actor' in the film (the teacher, Mr Lopez) and the families of the children who featured in the documentary, have unsuccessfully sued the producers of Etre et Avoir. They are currently seeking to sue them again. There seems to be inconsistencies between the suing group and the producers over what was actually going to be made from all the filming going on. What I can gather is that for the people in this movie the purpose of all the filming was for an education documentary where Mr Lopez's teaching pedagogy and relationships with his pupils would be the focal point of it. This was very different from the final product. I support those who featured in the documentary and feel somewhat sorry that they seemed to have been used for financial gain. Apart from being unethical in its movie-making approach, the children and people in the film were also told in many scenes to stage certain events, the most obvious being when a child gets 'lost' on a field trip. I have also read that the mental state of some of the children who featured in this film has been severely compromised after it became a huge success because a lot of what they talk in the film is deeply private and intimate (boy crying over and talking to his teacher about his dad getting cancer) i.e. not for public viewing!!! Had I known all this before purchasing this film I would not have bought it. Despite this I do like Mr Lopez and his star pupil, Jojo in this film. I wish I had millions to give them re:compensation because they deserve it.
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on 17 November 2005
This is a film that covers the lives of the young students and a teacher in a small village school in the middle of rural France in over a year. It's so heartwarming and very funny to watch the efforts of the teacher as he teaches the students on every subject. One can't help but feel affection for the young students as they attempt to learn everything from him, including having to pronounce proper French instead of their local dialect their parents use. It's a film that should be watched by teachers if they need to reach out to their students or simply enjoyed.
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on 15 December 2003
This is a magical French documentary about a primary-school teacher and his pupils. The setting is rural France. We see the evolving personalities of the children gently juxtaposed with the changing of the seasons.
The film is about growth and learning in its many manifestations. Nature sets the pattern for all the changes taking place. We see in the teacher, Georges, the personification of patience and loving attentiveness.
This documentary shows what real love and engagement is all about. A truly excellent film and certainly worth watching again and again.
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on 5 March 2006
This is a great film/documentary on Childhood. The type of film that makes you laugh, cry and think. If you fancy a change from those dull blockbusters, here is your film.
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on 12 June 2007
I completely agree with all the other 5* reviews- a mesmerising, enchanting documentary, which employs many of the conventions of fictional film-making (close-ups interspersed with landscape long-shots, no 'didactic' voiceover of a regular doc) with the ring of truth which only comes through real people doing their real, unscripted thing. It is quite amazing how wonderful this teacher, Georges Lopez, is. He has a natural rapport with the children which makes the viewer want to go back to being 5 years old, just so you can have him as your teacher. The kids themselves are achingly cute, especially Jojo with his never-quite-clean hands (see front cover), and by the end both of us watching were in tears. The scenes are so authentic and so resonant that they remain in your mind long after the film's ended, and I'm determined to watch everything else by Philibert now. The best French movie I've seen, along with 'Amelie'.
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