Between Republican walls
in Laurent Cantet
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This chapter considers Cantet’s most successful film to date, Cannes Golden Palm winner, Entre les murs (The Class). It discusses how the film’s reception underscored its capacity to investigate contemporary socio-political fault-lines and the tension between traditionalist republican pedagogues and pupil-centred modernisers. It considers how the film’s typically Cantetian use of amateur actors as experts on their own social roles allows other voices to emerge and challenge the authority of the schoolteacher, Cantet’s directorial double in the film. It draws on Bourdieu and Rancière to highlight how Cantet’s characters are always traversed by the tension between their social positioning and their capacity, as speaking subjects, to challenge the social order. Drawing more specifically on Rancière’s The Ignorant Schoolteacher, it shows how the film seeks to develop its own utopian sense of what an egalitarian pedagogy might be and the limits to its deployment.

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