Thursday, February 26, 2009

Classroom tensions and guerrilla warfare

Two noteworthy movies hit theaters in Denver this weekend as they slowly make their way around the country. A few words on each:

I wrote about "The Class" on this blog in connection with the Starz Denver Film Festival. You can search out that story, which ran on Nov. 6. Meanwhile, I don't think you'll find a better and more honest movie about the kinds of multi-ethnic tensions that arise in contemporary classrooms. The movie is French -- from director Laurent Cantet -- but the problems it portrays make one wish that an American director would try something similar. Happily, "The Class" is not made to be inspirational. Instead of raising false hopes, it takes an honest look at what happens when institutions try to absorb new cultural influences. Sound too sociological? Don't panic. The students and teachers in "The Class" make for lively -- if sometimes exasperating -- companions. The movie. which opens in Denver Friday, finally is beginning to find its way to art houses around the country.

Later in the day, I'll provide a link to my review of Steven Soderbergh's "Che," which will appear in Friday's editions of The Rocky Mountain News maybe my last contribution to a paper that seems to be counting its days. (WHO KNEW? AT THE TIME I POSTED THIS, THERE WAS STILL A ROCKY; THE PAPER DIED TODAY. FRIDAY'S EDITION IS ITS LAST. THROUGH A QUIRK OF FATE, I WOUND UP IN THE ROCKY'S LAST PAPER.) Soderbergh's 4 1/2-hour opus has many plusses, but seems so obsessively detailed that it forgets to make a larger point. "Che" has its problems, but I admire Soderbergh's commitment to making movies that interest him. He's one director who refuses to bow entirely to popular sentiment. Look, the guy could spend the rest of his life cranking out "Ocean's Eleven" sequels -- and it sometimes seems as if he will. But Soderbergh tries to mix his pitches. The resultant movies aren't always successful, but they seldom lack for ambition, and they can be downright daring, as was the case with 2005's "Bubble."

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