An inspirational story in the rich tradition of MUSIC OF THE HEART and MR. HOLLAND'S OPUS, THE CHORUS has moved critics everywhere to declare it one of the year's very best films! When he takes a job teaching music at a sc... more »hool for troubled boys, Clément Mathieu is unprepared for its harsh discipline and depressing atmosphere. But with passion and unconventional teaching methods, he's able to spark his students' interest in music and bring them a newfound joy! It also puts him at odds with the school's overbearing headmaster, however, locking Mathieu in a battle between politics and the determination to change his pupils' lives!« less
The Chorus - An Appreciative Gesture Towards Our Educators!
Kim Anehall | Chicago, IL USA | 02/24/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Many people with failed careers often turn to education as a refuge where they still can be a part of what they love the most. These refugees usually do not have any idea of what they are about to do to themselves, as they are about to face young people who believe they know everything or lack the enthusiasm that they possess. Often it turns out to be a wake-up call that the previous job was not that bad after all, despite previous failures. Some of these refugees turn out to be excellent educators while others fail again. In Les Choristes, known as the Chorus here in United States, the audience is introduced to one of these refugees that is about to embark on a rough voyage, as he has taken a job as supervisor in a boarding school for troubled children.
Christophe Barratier who directs Les Choristes has previously produced excellent films such as Himalaya (1999) and Winged Migration (2001). The story that Barratier tells opens in New York where a man is half in slumber on a couch when someone awakens him in order to inform him that there is an emergency phone call for him. It appears that the man's mother has just passed away, which leads him to return to home. When the man arrives home the audience can deduct through the mise-en-scene that the man is the best conductor in the world. After the funeral a strange man knocks on the door to ask the conductor if he recognizes him while he has a gift for him from an old teacher. The gift is a journal in regards to what happened in the year of 1949 at the Fond de l'Etang boarding school.
The journal was a gift from his old teacher, Clement Mathieu (Gerard Jugnot), which brings the viewers back to the year of 1949. Through this flashback the audience is introduced to the school, the students, the teachers, and the headmaster Rachin while the story begins to take form. The school is designed to help troubled youth to get on right track before it is too late. This means that many of the students at Fond de l'Etang are up to no good whenever they get a chance.
Rachin runs the school with an iron fist with the motto: "action - reaction", as he has lost all hope in the children's ability and only sees the imperfections of the children. Mathieu arrives quickly understands the psychology of Rachin, as he is forced to punish a student upon his arrival despite the student being innocent to his knowledge. The road to gain the students' trust is a long and difficult road, and more so to get them to follow the rules that he tries to set up. However, through compassion, self-irony, and a touch of humor Mathieu begins to get their attention.
Quickly Mathieu adjusts to the school environment, as he commences a tryout for a choir. Through the choir he gets the students to cooperate and build a meaningful sense of belonging. The educational methods that Mathieu uses win the students over, as they begin to do actual work while showing some progress. Unfortunately, Rachin sees the music as another way for the students to express themselves negatively and dishonorably. Rachin does not credit Mathieu for the students' progress through the music, as he tells him to stop the choir immediately. Despite the order from Rachin the students go underground much like the French Resistance during World War II in order to continue their music lessons. Through these lessons Mathieu builds strong bonds with the students, as he wins their trust while teaching them the wisdom of music.
The theme of Les Choristes is not unique, which can be seen in films such as Dead Poet's Society (1989), Dangerous Minds (1995), Mr. Holland's Opus (1995), and Evil (2003). These stories are also regarding teachers in school settings that change students' lives in some profound way. Another film that comes to mind is Cinema Paradiso (1989) that depicts an older man returning home to bury the man who changed his life. Les Choristes is a blend between these two themes.
Barratier's storytelling elusively ushers the audience into a terrific cinematic experience. The technical aspects of filmmaking are reliable and shine in the moments when it is necessary to elevate a mood and a feeling. The theme, which has been used before, still is powerful, as it is an essential tool for expressing gratitude to those who educate the youth of the world. In the end, Les Choristes offers a truly joyful experience, as it displays that there is hope everywhere if one only tries to see it."
Poignant. Poetic. Sweet. Inspiring.
Jeffrey E Ellis | Naperville, IL USA | 07/31/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Prisons are filled with people without hope; perhaps especially prisons which house young boys. Devoid of the normal pleasures of life in which boys delight, these ruffians lead desperate, bland, colorless lives of few joys, little change, and little love. Into this drab, dreary, and harsh enviornment arrives our lovable dreamer, Prefect Clement Mathieu.
A frustrated musician/composer, Mathieu has an idea: organize this rag-tag group of troublemakers into a boys choir. Like a wildflower in the field, this group springs into beautiful song and harmonies. It also upsets a few people along the way. No good deed goes unpunished, as Mark Twain said, and this one is no exception.
Mathieu is different than the other prefects and administrator/teachers, he loves the boys and in that lies the difference.
The Chorus is a sweet, gentle, moving film. Everything about it is exceptionaly well done. Remarkable acting, writing, filming, and storytelling make this a film which lingers sweetly in the mind of the viewer, long after the credits have scrolled by."
Music and hope ...
M. B. Alcat | Los Angeles, California | 03/16/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Fond de l'Etang", France, 1949. Data with no meaning for you right now, but that has a lot to do with this movie. What does that data mean?. Well, it is the place and time that set the background for this wonderful story.
The country is France, and the date 1949, some years after the end of the Second World War. "Fond de l'Etang" is a strict school for troubled children, mostly orphans who have lost their parents in the war. They live more or less unhappy lives, wanting to play outside but forbidden to do so. They express themselves only through rebellious acts, to which the harsh director of the school responds on the basis of the principle "action-reaction". Unfortunately, that principle doesn't solve things...
One day, the arrival of a new preceptor disturbs the school's routine. He is Clement Mathieu (Gérard Jugnot), a frustrated musician that has arrived to this school only after having failed at a variety of jobs, and who isn't overly excited at the prospect of having to deal with a bunch of unruly kids. Things don't start well, due to the fact that the students don't respect him, and that he doesn't agree with the director's "educational" methods. However, one day Mathieu listens the children singing out of tune, and realises that he can teach them to sing well. As he does so, trust begins to build between them, and the students start to face life in a different way...
Clement Mathieu kept a journal during the time he was at "Fond de l'Etang", and it is throughout his words that we are allowed to "watch" what happened. The films begins when one of Mathieu's previous pupils at "Fond de l'Etang" returns to his home due to the death of his mother. The man, now a famous music conductor, receives after the funeral the journal of his teacher, and begins to read it.
This story doesn't seem to be overly special, but the film certainly is so. I cannot explain exactly why... Maybe the reason is that the director (Christophe Barratier) is very good, or that all the actors play their roles beautifully. Another important element that makes this a noteworthy film is, of course, the enchanting music that plays throughout the movie. Anyway, I think that you should just go to see "The Chorus" right now (if you can, run), and find your own reasons to love it :)
Belen Alcat "
A Foreign Film for the Whole Family
Miss Mel | 02/21/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I saw Les Choristes while in France and fell in love. This film is a lovely story for the whole family. The plot may be simple, but the message will always be significant. The story is reminiscent of "Dead Poets' Society," but stands on its own and has amazing music as an added perk. Not only does French sound good as a language, but it also sounds great in music. The sweet boys choir that sings is outstanding and the soloist's voice is angelic. Don't miss out. This is an excellent film."
A Choral Music Teacher's Review (with SPOILERS - be forewarn
J. Gray | Columbus, Ohio United States | 09/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As a certified choral music teacher, I want to add my $.02 regarding this film.
I, personally, very much enjoyed it. It illustrated extremely well the positive effects of music in students' lives (discipline problems minimizing, self-confidence rising, and just making a child happy to find an activity they enjoy pursuing). Watching Mathieu conduct the first set of choral warm-ups as well as teaching Morhange proper posture made me smile, as these are familiar teaching tools to choral directors.
What made this different from a film like "Mr. Holland's Opus" is that the movie didn't end with a large concert attended by an audience of supportive,crying parents/students in honor of Mr. Mathieu. In "The Chorus," Mr. Mathieu was fired from his job and went on to teach music privately for the remainder of his life. The cheesy, typical American style which would have the film end with a swelling orchestral score as the aforementioned concert audience stand to cheer/cry with joy would certainly evoke an immediate emotional response. However, this is an example of Hollywood being Hollywood. It's impossible to NOT get emotional when Mr. Holland hears his orchestral composition performed for the first time at a retirement concert in his honor. Hell, I got verklempt seeing that. But, sadly, it simply doesn't happen that way. "The Chorus" illustrates this well with it's unpretentious take on the life of a struggling musician trying to make it as a teacher.
The following is what happens to a large majority of vocal music professionals with big aspirations - they end up teaching full/part-time in a college/university setting, a school system, or give private lessons in a very humble manner, occasionally finding a chance to compose a small work for a local event and/or sing in a local opera/choir/musical/etc., without any fanfare. Those who DO go on to perform professionally almost ALWAYS say, "Well, I wouldn't be able to do this without working as a teacher/professor. That's where all professional singers start." These people teach for years, often touching the lives of students in countless numbers of ways, then retire to live a simple, quiet life. He/she will get a 'Thank You' from a few students and maybe some parents, but beyond that, not much else. For most, as they look back on their careers, they are generally happy to have had opportunities to teach young people the magic of music as well as feel that magic themselves as the occasional performer/composer.
Music teachers can also identify with some situations in this film. Who could forget when Mondain was hauled away and Mathieu leans out the window and says, "...but he was my only baritone." As much as Mathieu despised this ill-behaved hellion, he was, in fact, his only baritone for the choir, leaving Mathieu somewhat disappointed when he left.
Also, the attitude regarding music in the eyes of some school administrators (i.e. Mr. Rachin in the case of the film) should not be foreign to many music educators. The music program is deemed completely unimportant and unnecessary UNTIL it is noticed as a success and a delight - only then does the administrator praise and announce his 100% support for the music program - and, of course, claim the program as his brainchild.
I wish I could show this in a classroom. There are, however, a few crude scenes which make this impossible.
If there were options to use half-stars in this review, I'd give it 4.5 out of 5 stars, only because the film as a whole began to slow a bit towards the last 1/3 of the film. I found myself losing focus as the month of May rolled around in the film.
To comment on what another member said regarding the music skills coming about too fast. Do remember that this film takes place over several months, with progress not seen until the Spring. This is not atypical and not unusual at all. With an inspiring, determined teacher and daily rehearsals that include implementations/consistent enforcing of 'good singing habits' (all of which the boys had in the film), true quality can be seen over a span of a few months. The progress of the boys singing skills in the film was, therefore NOT so unrealistic.
In my opinion, every music educator should see this film - especially if one is in the choral music field. It is inspirational without being pretentious and, well shmaltzy. It's a much more true-to-life portrayal of the ups and downs of a music teacher with hopes of something bigger. Those not in the music field who are perhaps used to over-the-top portrayals such as "Mr. Holland's Opus" may not find themselves giving the film a standing ovation.