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Here's another strong piece of work from a giant in French cinema, Bertrand Tavernier who is always on the alert to pore over various social problems who are still topical many years after the shootings of the films. "Une Semaine De Vacances" deals with education, a domain Tavernier will explore again twenty years later with "Ca Commence Aujourd'Hui" (1999).
The first thing that springs to mind is that by discovering this wondrous movie, one realizes that Tavernier uses education to make the portrait of a French teacher, Laurence acted with sensitivity by Nathalie Baye. The latter, one morning decides not to go to her secondary school after a breakdown. Her doctor (Philippe Léotard) gives her one week's rest during which she will review her career, even her life. As she hangs around with her lover Pierre (Gérard Lanvin), family and friends and makes new acquaintances, numerous questions, doubts and fears haunt her: did she really want to devote her life to teaching? Is she reliable enough to sustain interest amid her students? Should she have children with Pierre? Through her personal quest and a fragmented narration, Tavernier seizes the opportunity to make a mixing of different issues about education both from teachers but also between parents and children (Michel Galabru and his son with whom his relationships are rather blighted and there's a Philippe Noiret cameo whose son is in prison: it's a nod to Tavernier's first film: "l'Horloger De Saint Paul" (1974)). Other points involved are loneliness, old age (Laurence's old female neighbor), doubt (one of Laurence's students doesn't trust in herself while one of her colleagues puts her teaching career to an end because she's fed up with the incessant changing reforms in education) and different steps in the life of a woman: as I previously said, Pierre is craving for children but Laurence is undetermined about this.
So, education isn't only at the core of "une Semaine De Vacances" but one theme among several ones that are explored in the space of one week. There's a lot of food for thought, reflection and at the end of the viewing, one feels much more clever and available to have a look at the world that surrounds us. It's bracing cinema as we would like to watch it more often. God bless Bertrand Tavernier!
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