For all you young student cinephiles out there, it’s that time of the year again. You can almost smell the wafts of Christmas fruitcake, and the holiday songs seem to creep through the walls but lo and behold, you sit behind a stack of unread academic books, half-hearted notes with even less-hearted, barely legible handwriting on class discussions you didn’t pay attention to because you were too busy silently giggling at that ridiculous meme your friend had just posted on Facebook. Yes, my friends, it is that joyous time of the year when incoming holiday cheer comes hand in hand with a barrage of finals you aren’t prepared for. Your overly ambitious studying schedule may have left you feeling hopelessly incapable of even reading the introduction to a textbook (let alone a chapter), and you might be still internally obsessing over that one question you knew the answer to but that somehow never materialized during that agonizing final. Fear not. There is a light at the end of that tunnel of sleepless nights and shameless junkfood.
“Zero de Conduite”/”Zero for Conduct” (Jean Vigo, 1933)
This incredible film may alarm you at first glance. 1930s black and white, you say? French!? That sounds like something on a film studies syllabus…and while that might be the case, this does nothing to refute the fact that this anarchic comedy is by all means an uplifting and brilliant film. It tells the story of a group of rebellious school children who decide to rise up against their dictatorial school teachers; what could be better after you have just slaved on the behalf of members of the academia who admittedly are probably really lovely and nothing like the people in the film!? Cinephiles of all kinds will appreciate “Zero de Conduite,” which draws on witty dialogue, hilarious slapstick, and sequences bordering on surrealism to paint its own brand of what a vivacious and liberated school life should be.
“If” (Lindsay Anderson, 1968)
If anarchic yet relatively peaceful rebellion isn’t quite daring enough for you, turn to “If” next. This controversial tale of a coup d’etat at an English private school led by Malcolm McDowell of “Clockwork Orange” fame will have you either thanking your lucky stars all you have to deal with are some occasionally pedantic lectures, or will have you embracing the revolutionary spirit. With more than a smack of political allegory about it, “If” pushes the boundaries of power relations between students and teachers, turning to extremism to materialize the dark, violent impulses inherent in both groups. If nothing else, it’s worth checking out for the sets that would later be recycled for the “Harry Potter” movies. There’s something deeply disturbing yet highly amusing about seeing English boarding school kids running around with guns in those hallways so characteristic of Hogwarts.
“School of Rock” (Richard Linklater, 2003)
To cap off this grand dismantling of the school system, nothing beats the timeless classic “School of Rock”. If Jack Black was teaching me rock and roll as an academic subject you can bet your bottom dollar I would not be hesitant about starting those PHd applications; bring on five more years of crazy musical numbers and band practice, please. “School of Rock” has the incredible ability of transforming its audience into the same hopeful, vibrant children that grace its kooky and wild narrative. Jack Black saves the day and simultaneously condemns anyone in the teaching profession (for middle school, anyway) to forever be measured against impossibly cool standards. So sit back, sing along (why not!? finals are DONE) and let the magical chorus of twelve year old rock stars soothe your bruised and overworked soul. You deserve it.