Profile - Laurent Cantet

Laurent Cantet

Name Laurent Cantet

Born 5 June, 1961, Melle, France

Background A graduate of La Femis film school in Paris, Cantet made his impressive feature debut in 1999 with Human Resources, which used a mainly non-professional cast and married the personal and the political in its account of generational conflict at a factory. Cantet’s follow-up was Time Out, the intriguing story of an unemployed executive, who pretends to friends and family that he has a new position working for the UN. His third feature Heading South, starring Charlotte Rampling, was set in Haiti and focused on Western female sexual tourists.

What’s he up to now? Cantet’s new film The Class is a portrait of a school year for a class of inner-city French teenagers and their teacher (François Begaudeau), Cantet won the writer-director the Palme d’Or last May at Cannes. It attracted over 1.5 million spectators in France.

On directing teenage non-professionals ‘For most of a school year we did improvised workshops with the students and the teacher François [Begaudeau] every Wednesday afternoon. It wasn’t so much about training them as actors. It was about listening to their life experiences and what they were going through, and then letting them express themselves.’

On the school system ‘I wanted to show the complexity of the system and its contradictions. There is no magical solution and the film doesn’t judge the characters. We tried to avoid making François into an inspirational teacher — he does make mistakes. In France some teachers have complained that the film doesn’t show them in a positive enough light.’

On winning the Palme d’Or ‘I haven’t had time since winning the Palme d’Or to think about my next film. I hope winning the prize gives me the strength to do the films I want to do, in the way I want to do them. To me reality can provide so many interesting stories, if you are prepared to look at if from different angles.’

Interesting Fact Both of Cantet’s parents were schoolteachers.

The Class, selected release,out now.

The Class

  • 4 stars
  • 2008
  • France
  • 2h 10min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Laurent Cantet
  • Written by: François Bégaudeau (novel and screenplay), Robin Campillo (writer), Laurent Cantet (writer)
  • Cast: François Bégaudeau

One teacher, one class, one term and a whole load of problems. Remarkable social realist drama.