Review: ‘Un Film Dramatique’: Teens and tweens trying your patience. Go figure

There are many small moments to enjoy in Éric Baudelaire’s documentary “Un Film Dramatique,” which follows the daily lives of 21 film-club students in a suburban Paris middle school over the course of four years.

Unfortunately, the movie, which relies heavily on experimental video footage shot by its young subjects, is so under-edited it can be like watching a near-two-hour taffy pull. Had Baudelaire knocked out 20 or so minutes and leaned less into the vérité of it all, he might have had something more special — and less patience-testing.

The lively, engaging mix of students, who age from tween to teen before our eyes, film their homes and neighborhoods as well as several treks around Paris and beyond. If the frequently dizzying, handheld footage provides authentic glimpses into their worlds, it’s often too banal — making spaghetti, watching TV, singing a song — to warrant so many extended, Warholian shots.

The film shines, however, when Baudelaire and his crew turn their cameras on the students as they chat and debate, with cleverness and insight, about such vital topics as immigration, violence, racism, national origins and much more. (The school is located in poor, often vilified Seine-Saint-Denis or “the 93,” which informs much of their discussion.) The openness, warmth and respect the kids show one another is heartening to watch.

It’s also amusing to hear the kids talk about movies, especially within the context of what kind of film they are trying to make here. That they’re unsure of their exact cinematic mission is, in many ways, reflected in the final product, which is too random and amorphous to be as impactful — and accessible — as it should be.

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