(Les fautes d'orthographe)
It seems that every year, there is at least one film included at this
festival that is set in a school. This year's entry is Les Fautes d'orthographe,
or BAD SPELLING.
The film is set in the 1960s in Northern France where Daniel Massu
(impressive newcomer Damien Jouillerot), the bespectacled son of two
important teachers (Olivier Gourmet and Carole Bouquet) at the school in
which he is enrolled. Said school is primarily for the disadvantaged, and
Daniel feels even more uneasy than his classmates. Physically, he's a late
bloomer, so he's shy about undressing in front of the other students. And
he's not exactly adept at the basics, hence the film's English title. Before he
ended up at his parents' school, Daniel had taken to bribery as a means
to get others to write his assignments. Now, as he is prey for bullies and with
his parents taking a particular interest in his studies, he finds it difficult to
maintain the facade.
In order to survive, he forms a friendship with a Jewish orphan named
Zygelman (Raphaël Goldman) and the street smart Jean-Claude Griset
(Franc Bruneau). Daniel's parents, in particular, have issues with Zygelman
and the boy is expelled from the school. He and Griset seek revenge by
stealing from the parents and when discovered, Daniel takes the blame.
Griset pays Daniel back by rescuing from the bullies and the pair
create a cooperative meant to circumvent the rationing system at the
school. Their venture becomes a great success, even with some of the
teachers. When Daniel's parents learn of the existence of the cooperative,
they vow to shut it down, leading to a climactic riot. It falls on Daniel
to negotiate a tentative truce with his mother, who accedes to some but
not all of his demands.
BAD SPELLING is meant to be a political allegory, designed to recall
the student riots of 1968, but on a smaller scale. As such, it was mildly
Rating: B -
Viewed at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center
2005 Rendez-vous with French Cinema