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Les Choristes (2004)

Chorists, The Choir, The Chorus, Die Kinder des Monsieur Mathieu

Directed by:

Christophe Barratier

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 96 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 12a

Country: Switzerland, Germany, France

At the 2005 Oscars, French-made whimsy ‘The Chorus’ picked up a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film of the year. Personally, I’m not sure I’d go as far as to say it’s as good as all that – after all, one of the things I expect from a film quoted for such an award is that it should stick in my memory box long after I’ve left the cinema, and that really isn’t the case with this one. But, what I will say, is that it’s a nice, unassuming and enjoyable little film, and one that really should be seen by everyone who gets the chance.

It concentrates on the extremely watchable Gerard Jugnot as Clement Mathieu, a devoted lover of all things musical who takes a job as the pupils’ supervisor at a rural 1940s boarding school for “difficult children”. The place is ruled with an iron fist by discipline-loving headmaster Rachin (Francois Berleand) – but good ol’ Monsieur Mathieu thinks he’s found a much better way of keeping the kiddies in line when he decides to turn the whole lot of them into a fully-functioning choir.

Sure, I know what you’re probably thinking at this point: bet it’s all big OTT musical numbers performed by smelly little brats who’ve been convinced by their pushy parents that they’re much better at singing than they actually are. In actual fact though, you’d be wrong, because the film is much more concerned with telling us the story of how Mathieu turns the kiddies’ fortunes around than showcasing the questionable warbling talents of a gaggle of pre-pubescent sprogs.

Of course, the premise can’t exactly be called original. If we’ve seen a teacher using music/poetry/literature/sport to win over a tetchy classroom once, we’ve seen it a million times. In fact, when you think about it, this one’s actually quite a lot like ‘School of Rock’, only for the terminally placid. But as a one-off, instantly forgettable sort of viewing experience, ‘The Chorus’ works extremely well. It’s short enough and witty enough to let us know that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, there’s a stand-out performance from lead player Jugnot, and – if all of that’s not good enough for you – there’s always the unfeasibly charming scenery to take in.

It's Got: Action.

It Needs: Reaction.

Alternatives:

Dead Poet's Society, Mr Holland's Opus, School of Rock, The Fighting Temptations

Summary

You can’t help but enjoy this pleasant, docile little tale about a man who shows composure in more ways than one.

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