Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Monsieur Lazhar

The foreign-film Oscar nominee "Monsieur Lazhar" - and its titular character, an Algerian immigrant in Montreal who volunteers to take over a sixth-grade class after reading that their teacher hanged herself at school and was found by one of the students - is quintessentially Canadian, in good and bad ways.
It's sweet, tactful, decorous - it has classical music in the right places - but suffers from a snowbound torpor, rarely summoning up enough vitality to engage or challenge the viewer. Its story arcs and conflicts are largely self-contained and lack lingering resonance. For instance, will M. Lazhar be declared a political refugee and allowed to stay in Canada? We don't have anything invested in that determination, or any basis to make it; the ruling is almost a deus ex machina. The menu goes down smoothly and hits some pleasing notes, but "Monsieur Lazhar" is not a destination restaurant - ever hear someone say, "Let's go out for Canadian food tonight"?

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