The Chorus (2004)
Director: Christophe Barratier
Writers: Georges Chaperot (1945 story “La Cage aux rossignols”), René Wheeler (1945 story “La Cage aux rossignols”), and 5 more
Stars: Gérard Jugnot, François Berléand and Jean-Baptiste Maunier
Since I’m very much into music and films, there is nothing more delightful than the combination of both. Also my new infatuation for foreign language films has finally led me to this film, The Chorus (Les Choristes, 2004), a French film that has been nominated as Best Foreign Language Films in the 2005 Academy Awards. In many ways, the setting and themes of The Chorus reminded me of those from Mr Holland Opus and Cider House Rules.
You’ve seen the story. A failed musician, Clément Mathieu (Gérard Jugnot) is newly appointed as a music teacher at a boarding school for difficult boys who have been harshly disciplined by the unsympathetic principal (François Berléand). Under an uncaring supervision, Mathieu decides to do what he can do for the boys: mobilize them into a choir and inspire them with music. Through the successive choral sessions from the bald and soft-minded instructor, the boys learn to give meanings to their lives. The foremost character among this incredible ensemble is Pierre Morhange, played by then 12-year-old Jean-Baptiste Maunier, a real-life chorister for St. Mark’s Choir. Anyone in the audience would be immediately captivated by his deep blue eyes as well as his angelic voice.
The film delivers a largely predictable story with several adorable and convincing characters. Even the mean principal turns out to be an understandable character through the series of unexpected incidents happening in the school. The most memorable boy for me was Pépinot, a war-orphan with a cute and innocent face. Most of the young boys in The Chorus present fine acting along with the full-grown experienced actors to flawlessly relive the troublesome community within the reclusive boarding school in the post-war French countryside.
Although some cynical moviegoers would shake their heads at supposedly unoriginal settings (i.e. troublesome boy turning out to be young prodigy), The Chorus is filled with heartwarming and tear-shedding scenes that are as memorable as those from the musical and educational dramas such as Dead Poet’s Society and Sister Act. I would definitely recommend it to any sentimental viewer seeking for inspiration and musicality.