Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

Forum locked This topic is locked, you cannot edit posts or make further replies.  [ 1 post ] 
Author Message
PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2018 3:25 am 
Site Admin

Joined: Sat Mar 08, 2003 1:50 pm
Posts: 4373
Location: California/NYC


The heart is warmed by kids learning violin

French movies aren't by any means always original or challenging. Here is one that fits in a familiar mode but just does the same thing over again - in French. It's a low-keyed, enjoyable little story we have heard in other forms before.

Popular French comic Kad Merad, of Danny Boon's super-successful 2008 movie comedy Welcome to the Sticks/Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis, takes on a more serious role here. He is Simon Daoud, a violinist hired to teach a special class in a Paris ghetto middle school to learn the violin well enough to play Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade" at a public concert later in the year. They go from awful to implausibly good. We are touched. It's conventional but it works.

Boyd van Hoeij of Hollywood Reporter sums up the result in his review written at Venice: "A sullen French-Algerian violinist tries to tame a rowdy Parisian class of immigrant and second-generation immigrant kids so he can teach them how to play the fiddle in La Melodie. For those who have seen Sergio Machado’s 2015 title The Violin Teacher, shot in the shantytowns of São Paulo, or, before that, Wes Craven’s East Harlem-set Music of the Heart with Meryl Streep, this will be an all-too-familiar tale — except that it’s now in French. Indeed, for much of the film’s running time, actor-turned-director Rachid Hami doesn’t seem interested in reinventing the wheel of the inspiring-music-teacher genre, which makes this unfussily assembled feature the cinematic equivalent of a pretty comfortable but also rather everyday sweater."

There you have it. This is a movie genre, the heartwarming tale of ghetto kids tamed by classical music. It is surprising how glum comic Kad Merad is here, but he has a silence and a stillness and a propriety and reserve that are dramatically effective and all very French. Merad has an amazing presence. It's natural and innate, as is the equally strong presence of the kids, black, Arab, and white, whom Hami, a ghetto kid himself discovered for Kechiche's 2003Games of Love and Chance/L'Esquive, said he found "on the streets." There is a scene in a restaurant when one skinny black kid riffs and disses and the others answer back that is priceless: these kids play off each other naturally and fast.

The movie has a central player Arnold (Alfred Renely), who cheats and fights to get into the violin class: it is his dream, and he is gifted and has a passion. His friend (sometimes) Samir (Zakaria-Tayeb Lazab) enters the story when his father (the grizzled Slimane Dazi of Audiard's A Prophet) pulls him out, and M. Daud visits his family and talks him out of that. His playing for them as a sample of violin music of a passage from Bach's suites for unaccompanied violin that is one of the most powerful moments in all of western classical music is powerful persuasion. Here as elsewhere this movie makes good use of closeups of tearful faces.

Orchestra Class/Le mélodie, 102 mins., debuted at Venice Sept. 2017; showed at a handful of other international festivals. Opened in French cinemas 8 Nov. 2017, also in Germany, Colombia and Mexico. Mediocre-to-poor French reviews, AlloCine 2.9. Screened for this review as part of the New York Unifrance-FSLC Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, 14 Mar. 2018.


©Chris Knipp. Blog:

Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Forum locked This topic is locked, you cannot edit posts or make further replies.  [ 1 post ] 

All times are UTC - 8 hours

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot] and 12 guests

You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group