Old 04-15-2012, 09:21 PM
Philippe Falardeau's Monsieur Lazhar

Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:



Monsieur Lazhar (2012)

Philippe Falardeauís ďMonsieur LazharĒ was this yearís foreign film entry from Canada and was lucky enough to be one of the final five nominees for the Academy Awards. It didnít win, but it wasnít because it wasnít a good film, it was because it had the unfortunate luck of being nominated the same year as the Iranian film ďA Separation,Ē a film whose momentum could not be stopped throughout awards season.

ďMonsieur LazharĒ begins with the sudden suicide of a teacher at a Canadian elementary school. Her co-workers knew she hadnít been feeling particularly well, but it still comes as a shock to everyone. The news comes to the attention of Bachir Lazhar (Mohamed Fellag), who comes to the school to apply for her position. He is hired almost immediately and begins teaching his new students about the French language.

Meanwhile, we are slowly filled in on Lazharís backstory. He has come from Algeria to escape threats on his family due to a controversial book his wife had written. He came to Canada first to prepare the way for the rest of his family, but before they could come over, someone set fire to their apartment building, leading to their deaths. Now Lazhar not only has to deal with this tragedy and trying to gain political asylum in a foreign country, but also with a classroom full of students who have tragically lost their former teacher.

This is a rather simple, but interesting story. Lazhar already has so much going on in his life, and yet he continues to persevere when another difficult situation is added to his troubles. On top of replacing a teacher, he is also starting a job in a country that heís not particularly familiar with and at a school where he doesnít know all of the rules. His adjustment comes at the same time that his students have to adjust to him.

The teacher whose suicide rocked the school was liked by her students for the most part and was good friends with the staff. In order to help the children deal with the situation, the school brings in a psychologist for them to talk to. Lazhar goes along with this, but also feels that the children should be talking about it openly, whereas the school feels that itís something thatís best hushed up and forgotten.

The schoolís method does end up having some negative side effects. The lack of open communication leads to a lot of pent up emotions about the incident among the students. One of them, a student with a camera who still has a picture of the teacher, seems particularly hard-hit by the incident, something we find out a little more about as the film progresses.

As for Lezharís situation, he makes the best of his new life while trying to deal with his personal problems. He becomes close with the students, who, as expected, donít become taken with him right away after having just lost their previous teacher. His first lesson doesnít go particularly well, but itís understandable since he tries to have them take dictation while reading to them from a work written by Balzac. His method does improve however as he eventually begins to teach them about fables, something far more suited to their level.

Lazhar is brought to life by the touching performance of Mohamed Fellag. He brings a sweet innocence to the character while mixing that with the worry of his political troubles. All of this comes together to create a very realistic character. It seems Iíve been seeing a lot of films lately where the main character has a load to carry on their shoulders and Lazhar is no exception as he tries to juggle his job at school and his personal situation.

While ďMonsieur LazharĒ is a decent film, I wish it would have done more to stand out from other similar films. His personal crisis was a nice touch, but it didnít get much attention in the film. In a sense, I was reminded of the French film ďThe Class,Ē which took home the Palme díOr at Cannes in 2008. It too was a decent film, but rather forgettable in that it just didnít stand out very much from other school films. In the end, ďLazharĒ does get a recommendation. Just donít expect to be blown away by it. 3/4 stars.
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Old 04-17-2012, 11:02 PM
As a french-canadian , i will attest that this movie sweeped all the trophies this year in Canada .... finished 2nd in best foreign movie at this year's Oscar.

I haven't seen it yet but i will soon.

I prefer films by Pierre Falardeau .... not related btw.

Like 2 black dudes referring as brothers but not necesseraly loving each other , i'll root for the local movie when i can but it doesnt mean i give blind love.

PS. might sounds racist but it's not. Just trying to give a colorful comparison. French-canadian are the unseen stygmata of north america ( forgive my ESL).
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Old 04-28-2012, 03:12 AM
thanks buddy this is good i like it....
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