GRANDE ÉCOLE

             Each year, there seems to be one film featured at "Rendez-Vous with
     French Cinema" that focuses on young people in school. This year's entry
     is
GRANDE ÉCOLE, an adaptation of Jean-Marie Besset's stage play
     co-written by Besset and director Robert Salis.

             The movie is a complex examination of a young man's coming of age
     as he begins to negotiate the world on his own, away from his parents.
     Paul (Gregory Baquet) is the son of a factory owner in Southern France. He
     arrives at a prestigious and elite business school with his pal Chouquet(Arthur
     Jugnot). They are sharing rooms with the rich and dashing Louis-Arnault
     (Jocelyn Quiverin), who seems to be a big man on campus, complete with
     pretty girlfriend Emeline (Élodie Navarre).

             The focus of the film is on Paul, a blond, somewhat delicate soul with a
     girlfriend of his own, Agnès (Alice Taglioni). She soon senses that Paul is
     conflicted over something and eventually deduces that he has a crush on
     Louis-Arnault. She even goes so far as to suggest a competition between
     them to see who will be the first one to seduce him.  If he wins, she'll withdraw;
     if she wins, Paul must agree to spend the rest of his life with her.

             Unbeknownst to her, though, Paul finds himself drawn to Arab worker
     Mécir (Salim Kechiouche) and they enter into a relationship that has profound
     effects on Paul.

             I have to admit that when I first saw the film, I was really taken with it
     and the story -- so much so that I purchased the DVD of the film. After
     repeated viewings, I do see the flaws. Salis' direction is not as tight and
     focused as it could have been and some of the performances are uneven.
     And the thematic elements are not fully developed. The issues of class,
     race and religion that are tangentially touched upon are not as developed
     as they perhaps could have been. Still, I cannot but help to find some merit
     in the film. There's something in Paul's struggles to define himself and to find
     his place in the world to which I related.

             
GRANDE ÉCOLE may not be to everyone's taste, but I would recommend
      the film.



                              
Rating:         B