The Workshop (“L’Atelier”), by Laurent Cantet
A closed-door set glowing in the light of the Mediterranean, The Workshop portrays youth confronted with a harsh and brutal society. With this film, Laurent Cantet strongly reaffirms his faith in the future.
It took Laurent Cantet more than 20 years to return to the Mediterranean. A film student in Marseille, he left that city to enrol at the Institute of Advanced Film Studies in Paris in 1984. His filmography is marked by a desire to remain in tune with the real and the social concerns of France: The twilight of the working world in Human resources (“Ressources humaines”) or a crisis of schooling in The Class (“Entre les murs”) (Palme d’Or winner at Cannes in 2008).
With The Workshop, filmed at the La Ciotat shipyards, the director returns to the southern sun of his youth, without leaving the world of politics.
As is often the case in the cinema of Laurent Cantet, The Workshop is the story of a confrontation. Olivia, a renowned novelist, decides to spend a summer at La Ciotat to run a writing workshop for young people. Very quickly, two visions clash: The author wants to revive the ghosts of the shipyard closed in the 1980s, while the young people are more concerned about their troubled present.
Between attraction and repulsion, the violence of Antoine, of one of the students, seriously tests both the group and Olivia, but also enables them to find their place in this world.
A return to the sources
As a project, The Workshop dates back to the late 1990s. At the time, director Robin Campillo produced a television report about a writing workshop in La Ciotat. He spoke about it with Laurent Cantet, who was very interested in the subject's juxtaposition of the city’s past with its nostalgic working-class youth, but at the time this interest went no further.
Seventeen years later, Laurent Cantet took up the project again, aware that the situation had changed. The 2015 generation feels removed from past struggles. It looks instead towards a violent present, and the filmmaker wanted to show this upheaval. The two directors wrote the script together.
In the wake of The Class
After a film shot in the United States (Foxfire, 2013), then another in Cuba (Return to Ithaca (“Retour à Ithaque”), 2014), Laurent Cantet came home, with The Workshop, to what brought him his initial success, most notably with The Class: Social and political themes with a mix of amateur and professional actors.
Released in 2017, The Workshop naturally attracted foreign distributors and was particularly well-received in Europe and the English-speaking world. In spring 2018, he revealed the foundations of his formal approach as part of a Master class at the New York School of Visual Arts.
Three films by Laurent Cantet are distributed internationally by the Institut français: The Workshop (“L’Atelier”, 2017), Everyone at the Protest (“Tous à la manif”, 1993) and Return to Ithaca (“Retour à Ithaque”, 2013).
The Institut français offers a catalogue of over 2,500 films, allowing the French cultural network and its partners to screen French films around the world.