Author Archive for Alexandra Schwappach


A look into French Film: Part 3 of a 3-Part Series

Entre Les Murs: Defining Diversity

A collection of radically diverse and fundamentally different teenagers all stuck together in the same classroom day after day: Such is the scene in Laurent Cantet’s Entre Les Murs, known in English as The Class. The students, brought together for a French course taught by Francois Marin at a Parisian middle school, come from a variety of cultural and socio-economic backgrounds which often causes friction and dispute in the classroom.  The result is an explosive assortment of backgrounds and an instructor attempting to find the one right way so everyone can get along.  This film offers the best perspective on contemporary French culture because it essentially acts as a metaphor for France itself:  racially varied, diverse in background, but held together by the glue of the French language.

The most obvious example of the link between the film and contemporary French culture would have to be how Monsieur Marin faces the same challenges that teachers currently face.  Everyone in his class is different:  There is Esmeralda, a girl who challenges even the most basic of things the teacher presents, Wei, an intelligent but socially awkward Chinese student, Nassim, a new Caribbean student who has trouble blending in, and Souleymane, an African student looking to make trouble. These are just a few of the many backgrounds present in the classroom.  Like present-day instructors, Monsieur Marin looks to find a way that will help every student to get along, learn the right things, and excel both in their education and in their personal lives.  Monsieur Marin gives the students profile assignments, mostly for him to learn about the student, but also for them to learn about themselves.  The task is met with opposition and unwillingness to fulfill the project.  This reaction is not unlike ones had by contemporary students who criticize and disrespect authority and authoritative figures.  Monsieur Marin is faced with students telling him off, asking him why he thinks he is better than them, and purposeless arguments to stall the day’s lessons.  These disputes among many others are likely to be seen in any diverse classroom setting today.

The cultural setting of the classroom is an accurate representation of the modern-day demographics in France.  The country itself is known for nationalist fervor: the French people are proud of their nationality and proud of what it and their language represent.  But with higher immigration rates, leading to a more ethnically diverse population, the French have felt that national fervor threatened.  In The Class, students’ ethnicities are often targeted as a form of ridicule.  Students make fun of Souleymane’s mother because they think she looks weird.  Others make fun of Wei because he is intelligent and they consider him a teacher’s pet. When Nassim announces that he is rooting for a French team in Football, the students from Mali make fun of him for supporting French sports.  Like in contemporary French culture, there is an anti-immigrant atmosphere in The Class that hinders amiable interactions between the students.

Even the subject being taught in the classroom offers a connection to modern French culture.  One of the only things that the French people believe ties the country together is the French language.  The same is seen in The Class.  Though the students come from all sorts of different national backgrounds—Muslim, African, Chinese, Caribbean—they are all in the classroom learning one thing: French.  Oftentimes the students resist and question what they are being taught, just as immigrants to France might resist having to learn the language to blend in with the culture.  However the fact remains that spoken and written French is essentially what forces the students to interact, just as it forces the people in the country to do the same.

To see a preview of Entre Les Murs, click here.


A look into French Film: Part 2 of a 3-Part Series

Last Year in Marienbad:  Music Makes the Movie

Powerful and distinguishing music is utilized in Last Year in Marienbad to add a heaviness and mystery to the story.  In this film, loud, often hard-to-listen-to organ chords are played while the camera travels down a corridor.  This music plays every time the narrator is telling the audience another part of the story, and typically when he is describing the doors, the corridors, or the other scenery in the house.

The music in these scenes is eerie, and adds a mystery or cloudiness to the story.  Because the story, or lack thereof, is ambiguous in nature, the peculiar music just how unnatural the plot is becoming.

Other scenes throughout the film are interjected with harsh violin screeches or loud organ chords.  These sounds add powerfulness to the already poignant film by showing important transitions or cuts.

Last Year in Marienbad uses a very specific method of camera cuts to show past and present relationships and to further the strangeness of the plot.  Fast, frequent, jump-cuts are used to help narrator try to convince and the woman—and the audience—that they have met before.  While the narrator explains details of something from the past year, the camera cuts to that scene.  When he suddenly changes a detail from that narrative, the camera jumps back to that scene with the detail changed.  The camera cuts develop a relationship with the narrator.  Cutting to past events that may or may not have happened really strengthen the film’s dreamlike story.  These camera cutting techniques make the audience question whether the narrative is dream or reality.

Shots that are streaming or walking through a place are also utilized in a similar fashion.  At the beginning of the film, the camera travels along corridor after corridor, almost as if the audience themselves are ambling aimlessly through the hallways of this house.  As the narrator explains the scenery, often stating the same thing over and over again, the camera travels through the house just as monotonously.  Just like the narrator recites the details of the scene like a chant or mantra, the camera follows his voice, showing the things he is talking about.

To see a preview of Last Year in Marienbad, click here.

In The Last Year in Marienbad, shots that are streaming or walking through a place are also utilized in a similar fashion.  At the beginning of the film, the camera travels along corridor after corridor, almost as if the audience themselves are ambling aimlessly through the hallways of this house.  As the narrator explains the scenery, often stating the same thing over and over again, the camera travels through the house just as monotonously.  Just like the narrator recites the details of the scene like a chant or mantra, the camera follows his voice, showing the things he is talking about.


A look into French Film: Part 1 of a 3-Part Series

Le Fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain: Time Tells the Tale

In the film, Le Fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain, director Jean-Pierre Jeunet uses several techniques to both play with and distort time.  The film is about a young girl Amelie, who decides she wants to do good deeds for others for the rest of her life.  At the beginning of the film, as the credits are rolling, the audience sees a child playing with toys, eating, laughing, and dancing.  The director speeds up and slows down these images, showing that time is lapsing a bit in between each set.  Once the film starts, the audience is in a more grown up world, and Amelie is an adult.

The main color of the film is a yellowish hue, which gives the film an antique essence.  In addition, this light color clouds the viewers’ vision of when it is night and day.  It is almost impossible to tell the difference between the two.  Because of this it is difficult to tell how much time has passed or how much time has been spent in a particular pace. The technique is both unique and eye-catching.

In shorter scenes, the director uses speed to show that time has passed.  During day-to-day scenes, the director speeds up the motions and makes everything go by very quickly.  It is almost like how our subconscious tunes out our daily habits like brushing our teeth, locking our door, driving to work, etc.  In the same way, the director fast forwards through all the unimportant events while still showing that they have happened, which causes the audience to feel as though they are a part of these daily activities.

The timing in this film also gives this film a certain amount of excitement and tension.  When Amelie is walking the blind man through the square, things start out at a normal speed, but start to get faster and faster as they get more and more exciting.  This tension in speed increases the fascination behind the scene and the meaning.

For more on Amélie , check out a preview here.


Mom’s Weekend features a medley of entertainment

Pullman was packed with Cougar families for the annual Mom’s Weekend at Washington State University.

For any mom visiting, her son or daughter probably a running list of activities and events to keep her occupied.

One of these events was the Mom’s Weekend Up All Night, hosted by the Student Entertainment Board at WSU.  The event featured the New Jack Cities Comedy Tour, scrapbooking, pictures with Butch, and the Perfect Pair Game Show.

“The event went really well,” Steph Caron, Up All Night Programmer for the SEB said.  “It’s great when students can take their mom out and show them all the cool things happening on campus.”

Moms stood in line to take a Polaroid picture with Butch and then proceeded to a craft table where they put together a scrapbook page with the help of employees from Paper Pals.

During the Perfect Pair Game Show, a son and his mom danced and sang their way into winning the $200-grand prize.

If Friday’s activities didn’t wear everyone out, the Student Recreation Center offered free early morning Pilates and yoga classes to jumpstart the day on Saturday.

Beasley Performing Arts Coliseum also hosted its annual Arts and Crafts Fair from 9 am to 4 pm.  The fair featured more than 100 different vendors selling everything from jewelry to pottery to pretzels.

For a break from all the crowds, Valhalla Bar and Grill hosted a wine tasting of more than 25 Washington wines.  For $35 a person, Moms and their over-21-year-old kids could have twelve tastings of various wines, and an array of snacks like Cougar cheese, breads, meats, and dips.

For another sweet stop, Ferdinand’s opened it doors for a special treat for moms.  But customers had to get there early: Ferdinand’s is so good that the line gets long in a hurry.

If Moms and kids didn’t have tickets to the 8pm performance by Jay Leno in Beasley Coliseum, then they could see one of the many theater performances happening in Daggy or Brian Hall.  Performances included Orpheus in the Underworld, End Days, and Barefoot in the Park, among many others.
While Sunday’s activities were far fewer than the previous days, there was still plenty to do.  Bank Left Bistro and Tearoom in Palouse offered a chocolate tasting, lunch and art exhibit.  The quaint restaurant is located just off the main road in Palouse and is home to an art gallery featuring exotically unique art by Rhea Griffin.
For $12, Moms and guests had their choice of crepe or tartine, along with pots of tea and drinking chocolates served in the tearoom.
To finish up the weekend, the Student Entertainment Board aired The Proposal twice day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in the CUB Auditorium.

Springfest Tickets on Sale Now

The Student Entertainment Board at Washington State University will be selling tickets for their annual Springfest tickets starting today at 8am in the Cougar Card Center.  Tickets are $5 for WSU students and $20 for public.  There are 800 floor tickets available.  Ticket holders will be able to see bands Red Eye Empire, Bones, The Maine and headliner Ying Yang Twins at Beasley Coliseum starting at 6pm on April 24.  Free activities including inflatables, food, acoustic performances, student organization booths, a gaming RV, kids area, beer garden will start at noon in the VetMed parking lot.

For more information, check out SEB’s Springfest Facebook Page.


Red Eye Empire drops groovy local beats

The Vancouver-based, five-man band Red Eye Empire wrapped up their winter tour with bluesy group G. Love and Special Sauce at the Knitting Factory in Boise, and is on their way to Washington State University for a performance at Springfest on April 24.

This rock-reggae band relaxes a room with smooth reggae beats and gets the crowd singing with remakes of Led Zeppelin hits and fast guitar rifts.  Seemingly simple at first, lead guitarist Andre Arsenault has some surprising instrumental talent.  Eric Stephenson’s upright bass has both musical and aesthetic appeal, especially during his solos in the white spotlight.  The band is all smiles both on and off stage.

Check out Red Eye Empire’s Website here.


Heads v. Feds: A debate on the legalization of marijuana visits WSU

The great debate is finally reaching WSU.

Steve Hagar, editor in cheif of High Times Magazine and Robert M. Stutman, former Drug Enforcement Administration veteran will debate the legalization of marijuana on Wednesday, February 24 in the WSU Compton Union Building Senior Ballroom. The event will be hosted by the Student Entertainment Board, one of WSU’s registered student organizations.

The debate will be mediated by SEB’s Lecture’s Programmer Rachelle Rosonitz and will last about 30 mintues with discussion and rebuttals from each speaker. The debate will be followed by questions from the audience.

This event is free to students with valid WSU IDs and $5 for public. Doors will open at 5pm so get there early for a good seat. For more information click here.

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