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The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )



Audio/Video total rating:

( Max score: 100 )


Studio and Year: Sony Classic Pictures - 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 130 Minutes
Genre: Drama

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): French/English Dolby TrueHD, Spanish Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French, English SDH
Starring: Francois Begaudeau
Directed by: Laurent Cantet
Written by: Laurent Cantet, Francois Begaudeau, Robin Campillo
Region Code: A,B,C

Blu-ray Disc release Date: August 11, 2009

"Tough love"

Film Synopsis:

At a tough inner-city middle school in Paris, a dedicated teacher named Mr. Marin (Francois Begaudeau) begins the new term. Taking on a class comprised of a melting pot of modern-day French society, he pushes and prods his pupils while striving to gain their respect. And as each side challenges the other over issues both academic and personal, Mr. Marin and his students are about to get an education they'll never forget. The winner of the Palme D'Or at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, The Class is both powerful and provocative, "an artful, intelligent movie" (Manohla Dargis, The New York Times) based on Begaudeau's best-selling autobiographical novel.

My Take:

The Class is a screen adaptation of François Bégaudeau's novel about his experiences working in one of Paris's roughest neighborhoods. He stars as himself, an impassioned French teacher, who presides over a classroom of diverse, middle school aged kids who challenge him at every turn. The film is told from a fly on the wall perspective using improvisational narrative and real people, not actors. It doesn't have a bland documentary style as the emotions feel genuine. The situations that are depicted, while not overly dramatic or life shattering are evidently visceral nonetheless. The story takes a snapshot of a school semester and I found it to be a wonderfully engaging and honest portrayal. It was easy to identify with both the students and faculty as they struggled to co-exist while dealing with disciplinary issues, diverse familial backgrounds and personal identity. The students ranged from ages 13 to 15 which is a time when identity, acceptance and self awareness seem to be in a somewhat constant state of flux. Francis is an experienced teacher who legitimately cares about his students. Unfortunately he occasionally allows them to draw him in and he sinks to their level which ultimately has negative repercussions that effect everyone involved. I think that this film captures the essence of that very well as it depicts both the students and teachers as real and fallible people who may not always put their best foot forward. I was impressed at how well executed and involving this film was. I would say that it was 2 plus hours that were well spent.

Parental Guide:

The rating is for language.

AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

Audio: 72

  • Dynamics:

  • Low frequency extension:

  • Surround Sound presentation:

  • Clarity/Detail:

  • Dialogue Reproduction:

Video: 84

(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity:

  • Black level/Shadow detail:

  • Color reproduction:

  • Fleshtones:

  • Compression:

The Class comes to Blu-ray Disc from Sony featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 25 mbps and lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 channel audio that has an average bitrate of 1.3 mbps.

This video presentation offers little in the way of highly polished, razor sharp images but it seems to represent the film's elements well. Primary colors appear satisfying while the film intentionally maintains a cooler overall palette that works well against the school interior's neutral based color scheme. Complexions are texturally descriptive with lifelike tonality that varies among the cast. Resolution is very good but its softer elements leave wide angle shots with smoother lines and average refinement. Close ups and mid level shots are more revealing of subtle nuance and resolvable detail but lack the definitive clarity of the best high definition video I have seen. This appears innate to the photography and seems apropos with respect to the tone of the film. Contrast appeared to be right on the money and blacks are deep but not especially eye catching. This wasn't really a problem as there were few scenes that utilized low level material where this was consistently apparent. I saw no overt signs of video anomalies or compression related artifacts and thought this appeared to be a pristine quality encoding.

Both English (dubbed) and French Dolby TrueHD audio options are offered. The disc case indicates that the audio is Dolby TrueHD 3.0 in French and English however the mix is presented in 5.1. I opted for the English subtitled French track during my evaluation. The soundtrack is almost entirely dialogue driven and makes primary use of the center channel speaker with low level ambience spread to the left/right speakers. I was impressed with the clarity and definition that I heard even during busier moments when there were people speaking simultaneously along with varied background sounds. The soundstage isn't especially wide but dimension is fair. There is no information mixed to the surrounds and subwoofer. I never missed them and thought that based upon the source material this track sounded just fine.

** Those with CIH setups should note that the subtitles appear in both the picture and letter box area.**

Bonus Features:

  • Audio and scene specific commentary by director Laurent Cantet and writer/actor

  • Making of The Class - Documentary (41 minutes)

  • Actors workshop - Documentary (30 minutes)

  • Actors self portraits - As featured in the film - 12 minutes

  • (HD) Theatrical trailer

  • (HD) BD Previews:

    1. Every little step
    2. Easy virtue
    3. Ive loved you so long
    4. Paris 36
    5. Married life
    6. The Jane Austen Book Club
    7. Damages: Season 1
    8. Casino Royale
  • BD-Live enabled

Final Thoughts:

The Class is an interesting and engaging film adaptation of the book by Francois Begaudeau. Beagaudeau stars in the film along with a wonderfully diverse group of real students that help him bring it to life. It comes across as a genuine depiction of what goes on within the confines of a middle school classroom where people and situations can present challenges that test the resolve of a good teacher. This film isn't the type that will blow you away in high definition but its presentation from Sony on Blu-ray Disc looks and sounds just fine. The bonus content features an excellent making of documentary that is worth checking out. If you liked the students featured in the story, there is an entertaining actor's workshop documentary and complete set of self portraits as read by each of them. This is a wonderful film that is worth seeing although I am not so sure how it would hold up under repeat viewings so I am recommending it as a rental for those without prior experience with it. If youre already a fan feel free to pick it up.

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

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