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Etre et Avoir(2002)
A documentary portrait of a one-room school in rural France, where the students (ranging in age from 4 to 11) are educated by a single dedicated teacher.
For more about Etre et Avoir and the Etre et Avoir Blu-ray release, see Etre et Avoir Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on November 5, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Georges Lopez
Director: Nicolas Philibert
» See full cast & crew
Etre et Avoir Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, November 5, 2012
Screened at the Cannes Film Festival, Nicolas Philibert's "Etre et avoir" a.k.a "To Be and to Have" (2002) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Artificial Eye. The supplemental features on the disc include original trailer for the film, video interview with director Nicolas Philibert, and film-making masterclass with the French director. In French, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
The camera follows closely the faces of the kids as they listen to their teacher, George Lopez, while he addresses their questions. Sometimes his answers make sense to them, sometimes they don't. But Lopez is patient and willing to give examples that make it easier for the kids to understand why things are they way they are.
The classroom is rather small but is perfectly organized. In it the Lopez often corrects the kids as they make mistakes or warns them to pay attention if they get distracted. There are a dozen of them. During breaks they all go outside in the garden and play. Sometimes they argue and run back to Lopez to complain about something. Like a judge, Lopez listens to what everyone has to say and then makes a decision. The kids respect him, even if occasionally they don't like what they hear.
Quite often Lopez's face cannot be seen because the camera is positioned too low, next to the kids, studying their faces. But they don't seem to notice. They are focused on their writings and games, thinking about something which at that moment is everything that matters to them. Sometimes they talk to themselves. They would smile innocently or suddenly become sad. The camera captures everything – the joy, the sadness, the confusion.
There is a short sequence in which a boy and a girl attempt to figure out how to print something from a large printer. The boy goes first and pushes a couple of different buttons, but the machine remains silent. The boy has seen how it's done and is convinced that it should be easy to get it to work. But it isn't. Then the little girl gives it a try. Again, the machine remains silent – not a single noise, not a single light to indicate that it works. Lopez is not around to help and the boy and the girl leave. Both are frustrated because obviously there is still a lot that they don't know about the world of the grown-ups, about life.
In another sequence Lopez comes in front of the camera and talks about his Spanish father who years ago came to France and decided to stay. He married his mother here. He was a farmer who wanted his son to do better than him. While Lopez talks, one gets the feeling that like his students he also wants to know more about the way things are, about life.
Directed by Nicolas Philibert, Etre et avoir a.k.a To Be and to Have is one of the most successful documentary films every released in France. In 2003, it was awarded Best Film Award by the French Syndicate of Cinema Critics.
The film is slow and quite subdued but enormously attractive. As Lopez and his students interact and the seasons change, the viewer feels the rhythm of life in the small rural French town where the film was shot. It is definitely different - it is slower and a lot more consistent. One also feels that the people there are kinder to each other.
Philibert and his camera are casual observers. There are no scripted sequences; no one knows what would happen next. They simply follow the kids and capture their reactions, observe them as they grow and learn from their teacher. This may sound like an incredibly basic premise for a film, but the visuals very moving and the atmosphere quite remarkable. Sometimes it is so difficult to see and appreciate the most basic yet most precious things in life, but with To be and to Have Philibert makes it incredibly easy to forget about the material world most of us are fixated on and feel nostalgic about the time when we were also very young and had someone who truly cared about us in the classroom. Simply a wonderful film.
Etre et Avoir Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.67:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Nicolas Philibert's Etre et avoir arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Artificial Eye.
Shot in Super 16mm, the film has the appropriate raw look. Generally speaking, detail and depth are pleasing, especially during the daylight sequences. Some minor inherited clarity fluctuations, however, are present where light is restricted. Virtually all of the close-ups look very good. Colors are warm and natural, never looking boosted. There are no traces of problematic lab tinkering. Specifically, traces of problematic sharpening or degraining corrections are nowhere to be seen. This being said, some extremely light noise is visible from time to time, but overall the film does have a solid, very pleasant organic look. Lastly, there are no serious stability issues to report in this review. To sum it all up, this is a competent presentation of Etre et avoir which also represents a strong upgrade in quality over previous DVD releases of the film. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Etre et Avoir Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: French LPCM 2.0. For the record, Artificial Eye have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
Etre et avoir is primarily a dialog-driven feature. There are random nature sounds that occasionally enter the film, but they are not used to enhance the unique atmosphere. The dialog is exceptionally clean, stable, and easy to follow. Also, there are no dropouts or distortions to report in this review. The English translation is excellent.
Etre et Avoir Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Etre et Avoir Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Nicolas Philibert's Etre et avoir is one of the very best films about teaching and growing up that you would ever see. It is an incredibly simple yet remarkably moving film, one which I am convinced will leave a lasting impression on you. If you have already seen Etre et avoir and are wondering whether this Blu-ray release represents a strong upgrade in quality over previous DVD releases, the answer is yes, absolutely. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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