To Be and To Have (France; 104min.)


directed by: Nicolas Philibert
documentary
Être et avoir
 
Diane says: "Sentimental docu about the rural French teacher. I fell in love with the young student, JoJo." 3 cats
 
Georgette says: "I truly enjoyed this quiet little documentary. I liked the way that we only learn about the home life of two students after they are reprimanded for acting out at school. And of course when we learn about their life at home, it's easy to see how it is hard for these two to focus on their classroom behavior.

"I'm sure that part of my enjoyment of this movie goes beyond the movie itself. I couldn't help but recall Manesquier, the teacher from MAN ON THE TRAIN, and imagine him in a similar classroom setting." 3 cats

 

Laura says: "Philibert and his crew remain invisible throughout most of the this film's running time letting a way of life that is surely short-lived speak for itself. The film is cyclically chaptered just as a school year is divided by seasonal change, although nature's pattern is two beats off with fall bringing a beginning and summer an end. In Auvergue, man's connection to nature also means his livelihood and Philibert makes the associations visually, starting his film with what at first seems an odd shot of cows being herded in gently swirling snowflakes. A transition to tortoises traversing the floor of the emptied classroom is the only shot in the film which appears to have been staged.

"Lopez is an old-fashioned disciplinarian, with children lining up behind their chairs before he instructs them to sit. He uses the power of his soft voice to demand attention and exhibits incredible patience and ability. The man is not only a teacher, but a councilor, psychologist and arbitrator rolled into one. Most of all, Lopez is clearly loved by his students. They range from young JoJo, the class imp and 'star' of the show through the older boys whose schoolyard fight must be investigated. Philibert only shows the lessons of the younger children, who learn through repetition and example, while the older students are shown receiving help with homework assignments in their homes. The whole class comes together for a cooking lesson in crepe making (vive la France!) and field trips of sledding and picnicking.

"Philibert bridges seasons and sequences with establishing exterior shots of landscape and the windows, doorways and gates of the buildings we're about to enter. The absence of narration works on the film's audience as Lopez's voice works on his students. Philibert enters the scene at about the hour mark (in voice only) for a quick interview with Lopez outside of his home where we learn that he came from a farming background and is soon to retire.

"TO BE AND TO HAVE is a remarkable document of a time that's almost past. Nicholas Philibert's exploration of a teacher's connection to a community is done with beauty, grace, humor and a gentle sense of melancholy. " 4 cats

Review courtesy of Reeling Reviews

 
Michael says: "This documentary has been doing quite well in its run at the Coolidge Corner Theatre. I watched the screener for it last night, and I have to confess, I rather enjoyed the trailer for the film a bit more than the film itself.

"Adopting a fly-on-the-wall approach, director Nicolas Philibert and his film crew spend a year in a French, one-room schoolhouse, the likes of which scarcely exist anymore. A dozen-or-so students aged 4 - 11 attend the school in rural France, where farming is the principle trade, and their teacher, Monsieur Lopez, is near retiring.

"Truly, the importance of education rings true as this film progresses, which is surely the filmmakers' intent. But despite other reviewers praise, I felt several of the scenes to be somewhat forced and stagey. Sure the kids were cute, but "star" Jo Jo kind of got on my nerves because of the attention given him. (I was much more entranced by Marie!) Perhaps it was also due to the onset of a cold that has struck me down today, but I also found it difficult to stay awake through (but I did.)

"Sadly, I must give TO BE AND TO HAVE 2 1/2 cats."
 
Rick says: "Georgette described it just right as a 'quiet little documentary.' Quiet and little in such a refreshing way. I left this film feeling calmed, soothed, and moved. Such a sweet film and a solid 4 cats.

"Having an aversion to small children, I had my doubts coming into this. I was concerned that somehow those filthy infants would reach through the screen and touch me with their sticky hands! Furthermore, I was put off by the contrived openning sequence of turtles making their way freely about the room. Like this was supposed to be 'cute' and the rest of the film would be full of 'aww it's he/she/it cute' nonsense made to appeal exclusively to middle aged suburban PTA-attending church-going soccer moms, in the way that SPELLBOUND did (applogies to all those that liked this film and to those who fit this demographic. I just felt SPELLBOUND was lacking in much needed irony). But that's neither here nor there and TO BE AND TO HAVE broke through my cynical fascade, enabling me to experience the genuine warmth projected by the teacher to his students. How fortunate the kids are to have Monseiur Lopez in their lives. How fortunate we are to be able to see and experience him as depicted in this film! I like how we are given limited information about Lopez, and I think that's how he would want it - for the film to not be about him, but about the children and their problems, and vicariously we the individual viewers and our problems, and the process of learning and moving through the difficulties of life. I was reminded of the few but very important effective teachers I've had and how their impact continues to follow me. And to make this all the more sentimental, I'll close with these quotes by Mr. Rogers 'We are not just the age we are now, but all the ages we have ever been,' and 'The child is in me still, and sometimes not so still.' 4 cats