Le Concours (The Graduation)London Film Festival 2016
Le Concours (The Graduation) sets out to show the inner workings of the respected Paris-based film school La Fémis, and director Claire Simon’s interesting documentary does exactly what it says on the tin. The opening scenes are reminiscent of watching footage from a surveillance camera, but Simon’s observational style quickly asserts itself as the day-to-day life of La Fémis gently unfolds. While undeniably gripping in its own amiable way, the movie is likely to be of great interest to cinephiles with a love of French cinema. The prestigious school has produced such filmmakers as François Ozon, André Téchiné, Costa Gavras, Christophe Gans and Louis Malle amongst others.
Simon is a practitioner of direct cinema, which is highly non-interventionist by definition; her camera observes with no agenda, simply aiming to capture the truthfulness of the situation. It could be argued that the mere presence of a filmmaker and their camera will affect what the audience sees and how it is played out, although without necessarily affecting the outcome of the given situation. Simon has a distinct advantage in recording the happenings at La Fémis in this respect. Her past as a member of the teaching staff at the school means that her presence is simply that of a co-worker or teacher sitting in on various events at the school, and being a school of filmmaking, it’s not as though anyone involved would be overly interested in the existence of a camera capturing them during an unguarded moment.
It’s heartening that La Concours (The Graduation) is able to aptly convey the passion and ambition of the prospective students in such an understated manner. There are no histrionics to be seen, despite the highly competitive entrance process for La Fémis. There are merely hints of earnest and anxious demeanours amongst some of the students. Simon’s documentary is restrained, slow-burning and extremely absorbing.
Le Concours (The Graduation) does not have a UK release date yet.
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