Daniel is schoolmaster of a kindergarten in a small French town. The local economy, which depended entirely on coal production, has been mired in a depression ever since the mines were ...
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Daniel is schoolmaster of a kindergarten in a small French town. The local economy, which depended entirely on coal production, has been mired in a depression ever since the mines were closed. When their parents fall into utter discouragement or even poverty because of prolonged unemployment, the children suffer the consequences. Daniel is confronted daily with difficult situations and he feels responsible to deal with them although they are outside the scope of his responsibilities. This is a frustrating task: politicians are concerned with tightening their budgets, bureaucrats in the intricate web of French social and educational services with their prerogatives, utility companies with getting their bills paid; teachers, social workers, and policemen are overwhelmed. Daniel's relations with his parents, but also with Valeria, his fiancée, and her son are not entirely smooth either. He nevertheless soldiers on with the staff of the kindergarten, all doing their best to educate the ...Written by
Eduardo Casais <email@example.com>
Don't settle down for a comfortable couple of hours easy entertainment. This film carries a message and it will thrash you with it. This is not a film with a stylised story set out in the classical beginning-middle-ending formula; it is a film which swings from scene to scene, at times hectically, with splendid unrehearsed sequences shot with continual changes and panning at frequently too high speed, swinging from schoolmaster to clusters of young faces, zooming in on one, lifting up to worried mothers bursting in, and back down to the schoolmaster, at trepidating speed, breathlessly, at whatever price, because the important thing was to get it all as it happened, how it happened; no way of organising thirty little kids to do the scene again: it would be just too artificial and useless.
The price is some lack of focussing, but it is worth the end result: Alain Choquart under Tavernier's orders achieves something monumental, something magical as his agility with the camera swoops around the school capturing every taut smile, every nervous finger-twisting, the first tears from a hysterical mother... Bertrand Tavernier comes out of that French school of film-making to which he adhered for most of his earlier output and from which he tried to break away with risky excursions into adventure cinema in 'La Fille DE D'Artagnan' (which must have worried Alexandre Dumas) and 'Capitaine Conan' (which must have worried quite a lot of people), as if in a desperate attempt to reach Hollywood-tradition epic proportions.
With 'Ça commence aujourd'hui' everything comes back to earth with a rather nasty bump: Tavernier gets down to the gritty bits of sordid suburbs on the edge of an industrial city (Lille) where in most families the father of the household is either out of work, or drunk, or both, or has run away; the local schoolmaster takes it on himself to fill the rôle of father, a job which Phillipe Torreton carries out brilliantly, aided and abetted by his girl-friend, Maria Pitarresi, who doesn't.
But perhaps the brilliance of the film resides in the sheer pace, as the cameraman has to keep his wits about him so as not to lose those gestures, in what must be the nearest thing to live, unrehearsed cinema: above all in the rapid shots among the small children, where there is no acting or interpretation - it is all too direct, too immediate for any kind of infantile amateur acting classes.
There may be a few technical weaknesses due to the way in which the film just had to be made, but the end result is monumental, a brilliant though agonising document.
Every European politician should be forced to see it: maybe a few of them would wake up and decide to do something useful.
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