Saturday, February 14, 2009

entre les murs

i much prefer the french title for "the class" - "entre les murs" (between the walls.)  it's much more evocative and indicative of what the film is actually about. this film is EXTRAORDINARY. for once, cannes got it right (it won the palme d'or).  i can always tell if i loved a film by if we're obsessed with talking about it for hours afterwards...this was certainly the case - we were desperately trying to find a place where we could grab some tea and talk some more, but nothing decently priced in the yorkville area was available.  

warning for jenny calendar: the following review contains spoiler alerts (kind of)

i don't even know where to start.  it follows a school year in a urban school in france.  it's hard to use words like "urban" and "school" in close proximity in reference to film because it immediately conjures all those poor articulations of the above.  those films that show you the christ-like teacher who faces the initial struggle with the kids, only to win their hearts and help them rise above their socio-economic limitations are all too prevalent - they've become their own genre.  if the teacher has faults, they're movie-land faults: racism, drug addiction, etc.

what is so fantastic about this film is that it approaches documentary in the restraint and limitations of the narrative structure.  you see episodic events linked together because they occur between the walls of the school - you see what happens at disciplinary hearings, in the teacher's lounge, in the school yard, in francois marin's class.  francois marin is played by francois begaudeau and the film uses his screenplay, which in turn is based on the book he wrote about his experiences teaching.  it's a testament to his reflexivity that his own "character" is conflicted, uncertain, and all too human.  everyone in the film (and special attention must be paid to the kids who play the teenagers, who i understand to be all untrained, first-time actors) is resolutely human.  your sympathies move amongst them; you empathize, disagree, judge, and negotiate their actions along with them and see the intricacies of the power dynamics of the class room, where institutional power and discourses of class, race, aptitude, ability, and interaction all collide.

it is so stimulating and intellectually engaging.  the film makes you so present in the classroom dynamic.  you experience the difficulties in managing a room full of personalities from both the teacher and student perspective -how tenuous the divide is between the two roles and how much the division between pedagogue and learner in the school system is predicated on nothing more substantial than title and age.  how easy it is for authority figures to slip up, how quickly things can escalate in an exchange with teenagers - how they're so smart and confused and self-aware and selfish and oblivious - and how their states are mirrored by their authority figures.  race and class and gender and the inevitable slippages in education are all depicted with honesty and authenticity - the film doesn't try to pull any punches, it doesn't try to take the cheap, easy, shortcut route to your sensibilities.  i can't say enough good things about it.  i want to see it again - i feel like i missed so much.  go see it now.  it's one of the best of 2008 for sure.  

that was the good part of the evening.  the other part wasn't as good but the company made it good and the fact that we were all in it together.

the interior of moroco chocolat looks like it was designed by someone who graduated from the bowmanville school of cliched design (with prop rentals from urban outfitters).  it was TERRIBLE and tacky beyond all measure.  purple, with grey accents, black and white highly lacquered crap everywhere - like a nouveau alice in wonderland's parisian boudoir (but someone who has clearly never been to paris) by way of versailles.  it was horrendous. i mean, we can all agree that versailles is breathtaking, but it's not actually in good taste, per se. it's gaudy as all f**k.  and the soundtrack was INSANE!  they played all-4-one's "i swear"  which would probably be fine (at a lower volume) - i get it...kind of po-mo pastiche.  but then they followed it up with SARAH MCLACLHAN! at that point, the pastiche theory gets thrown out the window and you're dealing with someone manning the decks who just doesn't know better, or is a cultural r-tod.  

i'm willing to overlook all that because there aren't that many places to go have a nice dessert in toronto.  unfortunately, this place wasn't that hot.  desserts were expensive...most hoveringi n the $14-16 range and for what you get, not worth it.  big time beard fail.

i had the chocolate sticky toffee pudding, served with salted caramel and gingerbread stick. this was the size of a golf ball. i'm sorry, i know what the food costs are on pastry items and i know the rent is probably insane in yorkville, but that's not my problem, it's yours. GIVE ME SOMETHING WORTH FOURTEEN DOLLARS. the flavour was aight - sticky date cake was suitably tacky, but it committed the cardinal sin of sticky toffee puddings in that the thing WASN'T SOAKED THROUGH WITH THE CARAMEL SAUCE. so it was sticky on the outside but kind of dense and dry on the inside. the chocolate mousse accompaniment was a bit of an afterthought.

the dotytron had the brownie. this place also does that stupid thing where they give the menu items names that are embarrassing to say out loud in mixed company, when there are no children present. also, the names had no relationship to the actual items and featured inexplicable spelling. so the brownie is called "brownie and clyde" and there's a menu item called "kiss me kake" (a chocolate cake w/ cream cheese frosting) anyway, this was also MINISCULE. it was about the size of a wagon wheel snack cake. and was thin (you can see it's resting on blackberries). it was a fudgy, egg-heavy flourless chocolate cake. but as you can see, there's not a hell of a lot sitting on the plate.

i'm not the biggest fan of tromp l'oeil food. i don't generally find it that impressive. making food that's relatively malleable look like other stuff isn't all that impressive to me - it's a lot different in terms of skill set then when say, wylie dufresne makes a "fried egg" out of emulsified carrot juice and coconut. in the above example, you have a sponge cake "bun", a chocolate mousse "patty", lemon gelatin "mustard", shortbread cookie "fries", strawberry coulis "ketchup", and some green stuff that i didn't taste that's supposed to be "relish". in this case, making the food look like stuff seemed to have more to do with "what can we make this food look like?" as opposed to "what will actually taste good together and make sense from a textural/flavour standpoint?" this didn't taste that bad but it wasn't very wow. the cake overwhelmed the burger flavours and the lemon and chocolate didn't make sense. the lemon also ended up tasting kind of artificial and way too gummy - it was reminiscent of black forest cake with the fruitiness and the chocolate. incidentally, this is probably the best value for the buck as you get a crapload of shortbread cookies and the sponge cake bun is pretty substantial.

zorak got the trio of brulee's (chili chocolate, caramel ginger, and vanilla.) i didn't get to taste them but brulee is brulee and they looked alright from where i was. if this was $8-10, i'd think it was worth it, but it was also fourteen bones.

so finally, it's a waste of your time and money. don't go there. they also sell the MOST EXPENSIVE MACARONS EVER. and the MOST EXPENSIVE CANDIED ORANGE PEEL EVER. THE ORANGE PEEL IS THE PART YOU THROW AWAY. the stuff is nicely packaged and i get what they're going for...but you my friends, are no fauchon.

i sound like a colossal complainer but it was awesomely fun and amazing because dr. rei and hanbo are the best. we (mostly i) managed to make hanbo turn quasi-apocalyptica because i don't believe in modeling and i don't believe that you can ascertain the intrinsic value of a company. hanbo thinks that i don't know what i'm talking about (this is true.) also, it was revealed that dr. rei has spent almost 10 years doing engineering and engineering related work but isn't an expert on anything related to engineering (civic, mechanical, electrical, chemical). in fact, the look of dismay/fear when asked to explain something engineering related was probably worth the ONE HUNDRED AND TWO DOLLARS WE SPENT ON 4 DESSERTS AND 2 POTS OF TEA. lol!!!!!! it was so funny and fun!

i did all my errands yesterday so today is my day for doing sweet f**k all. i got to go to the beer store and do some tidying around the house and maybe apply for that job and do some yoga...but otherwise i'm going to loll around on the couch reading and knitting until the dotytron comes to whisk me away to geneseo. i think we're getting pizza paul's for dinner tonight. pizza paul's is THE BEST!


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