Emotionally delicate movie focusing first on two young kids who saw their teacher’s classroom suicide, then on Mr. Lazhar from Algeria who lies about his past in order to get a job as substitute teacher. Turns out he was a restaurant manager and his wife the professor (?) was murdered for having unpopular opinions, along with both of their kids in Algeria. So, teacher and class are both grieving, and somewhat help each other along in a less touchy-feely way than one would expect from a plot description.

M. D’Angelo: “I did like that he lies about having smacked one of the kids upside the head, however, and that nothing ever comes of it – just an everyday ass-covering.”

J. Anderson in Cinema Scope:

French-speaking audiences may detect parallels between Lazhar’s story and that of the man who plays him. A popular actor, playwright, and satirist in Algeria, Fellag exiled himself to France after the clampdown on freedom of expression in his homeland manifested itself as a bomb attack on one of his productions. Usually an exuberant performer onstage, the 51-year-old Fellag handles his role here with a quiet precision and a keen sensitivity to his fellow actors that is all the more remarkable when you consider that this could have literally been a one-man show. Indeed, the play on which Falardeau’s film is based — by Québécois playwright Evelyne de la Chenelière — was written for a solo performer.

Greece 1963: leftist protesters against a supposedly democratic government invite guest speaker Yves Montand. Then he and another guy from the opposition party (Jean Bouise, Warok in Out 1) are clumsily killed, and it’s a race to see if the prosecuting attorney (My Night at Maud’s star Jean-Louis Trintignant) can uncover witnesses and prove it was a murder conspiracy before government-sympathist thugs kill all the witnesses. My first Costa-Gavras movie since hating Mad City in ’97, and it’s way more exciting than his plot descriptions sound, with quick, responsive camera and editing.

Trintignant kinda wins, manages to prosecute army big-shots and prove they were at least complicit in not helping to protect the murdered men. But this is bad news in the long run as the country spirals into authoritarian rule (which is why the film was shot in Algiers), getting bloody payback in postscript upon the leftists who dared to fight back – except the actual prosecuting attorney played by Trintignant, who’d return to Greece and become president 20 years later.

Montand widow Irene Papas (Mother of the River in Inquietude), standing in front of Clotilde Joano (Chabrol’s Wedding in Blood):

Doomed men in back seat, driven by Bernard Fresson (La Prisonniere, The Tenant), with shotgun Charles Denner (The Man Who Loved Women):

Warok-killer Gerard Darrieu (The Elusive Corporal, Mon Oncle d’Amerique) makes an accurate statement about birds to attorney Trintignant:

Montand-killer Marcel Bozzuffi (Le Deuxieme Souffle, Altman’s Images) tries to sneak past helpful journalist Jacques Perrin (Prince Charming in Donkey Skin):

Informant Jean Daste hides in an Elvis photomat:

Oscars for best editing (have I mentioned the editing? it’s great, with sudden flashbacks in the middle of conversations, illustrating thoughts of the people on screen) and foreign film at the oscars (vs. Midnight Cowboy, Hello Dolly), best film from the USA film critics society (vs. Stolen Kisses, La femme infidele), a couple prizes at Cannes including actor for Trintignant (vs. his own My Night at Maud’s and best-picture winner If…).

Cowritten by Jorge Semprún (The War Is Over), of course, and shot by Raoul Coutard (post-Weekend), also of course. Editor Francoise Bonnot would continue to work with Costa-Gavras as well as Michael Cimino, Roman Polanski (The Tenant) and Julie Taymor. Trying to figure out why C-G has a hyphenated name I came across a MOMA press release saying he added the dash “to create confusion.”

Armond White, throwing out the titles of some movies I should really watch:

Carrying on the tradition of the politically informed films of Francesco Rosi (Salvatore Giuliano, Hands over the City, and The Moment of Truth), which turned recent politics into complex, engrossing cinematic myths, Costa-Gavras would proceed to advance the political thriller toward a popular mode. His work paralleled that of Gillo Pontecorvo (The Battle of Algiers) and Elio Petri (The Tenth Victim, We Still Kill the Old Way, Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion), whose political exposés were also accessible as action films. This trend was distinct from such earnest, earlier cultural movements as Italian neorealism and Russian formalism in that it permitted socially conscious, politically motivated artists to pursue personal causes, infected with the excitement of the era’s post–New Wave aesthetic.

French monks in Algeria, led by Lambert Wilson (Not on the Lips) but also featuring the great Michael Lonsdale and Philippe Laudenbach (Mon Oncle d’Amerique) with his big comedy eyes, hear that a civil war is brewing, have to decide whether to stay or leave. They provide a primary source of medical care for the locals and don’t want to abandon them, but it seems their lives may be in danger, despite a cautious truce with the Muslim militants. Faith is tested, fates are decided, and monks are kidnapped and murdered. Kind of a depressing movie, actually.

Ouch from D. Nowell-Smith in Film Quarterly: “Beauvois has managed to make a film about postcolonial Algeria in which it is French expatriates who are the victims; the 100,000-plus casualties of the civil war are, for the film’s purposes, incidental to the monks’ own suffering.” He also compares to White Material, a film from the same year about French nationals living in an ex-colony during civil war. “Of Gods and Men becomes a surprisingly feel-good film, at least for its audience of citizens of a European power whose invidious colonial past is thus suppressed under a cosy, but ultimately false, humanitarian warmth.”

Story of six Africans trying to emigrate illegally to Europe. They go from Senegal to Mauritania to Algeria to Morocco via boat then trucks (one of them refrigerated) then camels then by foot through the desert, truck again, then they’re stuck in Tangier for a while.

I don’t remember what happens to Arvey the stingy old guy in the end. Someone gets sick along the way and is left to the authorities, his bag stolen by Kadirou (Dioucounda Koma of A Screaming Man). Kadirou goes off with his cousin, Moussa the teacher, making their own way to Tangier.

Second half of the movie mostly follows the others: Joe the dreamer (Ona Lu Yenke of Code Unknown) who says his girl is waiting across the strait, Sipipi the sailor, and Amma the wronged wife (latter two end up together). I thought it’d be one of those endings where Joe doesn’t really have a girlfriend waiting for him in Spain, but she turns out to be real – instead it’s one of those endings where he drowns trying to escape when the police boat grabs them.

Pretty good movie, watched a very poorly-attended screening at GA Tech. The director also acts, was in Munich and Three Crowns of the Sailor. Katy probably has more to say about it since she is talking about teaching it next year, but I’m running behind on the movie blog so didn’t ask her input.