During the summer in 2016, a well-known writer Olivia holds a writing workshop in Marseille area to promote writing among young people. With Olivia’s guidance, they need to write together a thriller. But in their group discussion, neither the history of the working class of the city nor the shut-down shipyards can interest Antoine, our protagonist. Bit by bit, Antoine shows signs of his attention towards the anxiety of the contemporary world, and a dubious attachment to the far-right politics. Soon enough, Antoine and his teammates grow apart because of their conflicts. Anger even makes him point a gun to Olivia...
Entre les murs has already brought Laurent CANTET a Palme d’Or in 2008. This year at Cannes, teaming up again with screen writher Robin CAMPILLO, CANTET made his way to Un Certain Regard with L’Atelier.
There are often some common figures reappearing in CANTET’s storytelling: students and workers on strike, middle-class on crisis or people of diverse races. L’Atelier follows right down this path and echoes the pulse of France, Europe or even the world.
This is the second time that Laurent CANTET and Robin CAMPILLO has collaborated, and the film inevitably shows a repetition of the same skill set of Entre les murs, just like the debate scenes in 120 BPM by CAMPILLO. L’Atelier once again takes advantage of the format of a teaching/debate session to approach the issues discussed in the film. The French, they never seem to hold back when it’s time to explain themselves. So among the group of the young, Caucasians, Black, Arabians, Muslims, they give tit-for-tat responses to one another. A big amount of lines shapes up the character of the teacher Olivia and students. With almost obvious purpose, these characters seem to be created for pointing out the issues: Arabians and Muslims leading to the subject of terrorism, Black people leading to the subject of racial discrimination, the writer signifying a conflict between French elites and commoners, Antoine and his far-right tendency. For instance, it’s interesting for me as a foreigner to see how a student makes fun of the teacher’s Parisian accent with her southern one, while in French language there is a word “province” referring to the whole country except Paris area – a constant conflict.