Directed by Christophe Barratier, starring Gérard Jugnot, Francois Berléand, Kad Merad, Jean-Paul Bonnaire, Marie Bunel, Jacques Perrin, Didier Flamand, Paul Chariéras, Jean-Baptiste Maunier, Maxence Perrin, Thomas Blumenthal and Cyril Bernicot.
France's contender for Best Foreign Language Film at this year's Academy Awards, came in the form of 'Les Choristes', a tender portrayal of the power of music to overcome the tortures of life, adapted from the 1945 film 'A Cage of Nightingales'.
Set in a reform school in 1940s France, 'The Chorus' takes us into the lives of a group of boys severely affected by their conditions under strict headmaster Rachin (Berleand). Savagely treated and left with no regard for themselves, there is little hope of the boys being reformed in any meaningful way in their tragic environment at the Fond De l'Etang boarding school.
When Clément Mathieu (Jugnot) takes up a teaching post at the school, he has no idea of what lies ahead or the lengths he will have to go in order to make some kind of difference in the lives of these children. Each has his own touching story. Orphaned, unloved, mistreated, the boys have banded together at the school to form a tightly-knit group, with authority very much unwelcome in their lives.
Needless to say, their new supervisor Mathieu is not warmly welcomed upon his arrival at the tough school, and for a long while seems very far out of his depth. But he perseveres, despite the boys' lack of appreciation for his attempts at musical inspiration. And inevitably good wins out and the boys realise that it is easier to work with the kind-hearted Mathieu than against, joining him in choir practice to release their energies in a less destructive way.
In particular Jean-Baptiste Maunier shines as the troubled, but extremely gifted, soloist in the choir. Presenting a vivid vulnerability cleverly hidden under the shield of a tough exterior, Maunier accents the personality traits of the boy Pierre Morhange wonderfully. Gérard Jugnot also brings a great sense of humility to his extraordinary character, totally possessed by his love of music. Added to his class of troublemakers are the perfect representations of good and evil in the sweet orphaned boy Pépinot (Perrin) and disruptive bully Mondain (Gatignol).
Simply put, it's 'Song for a Raggy Boy' in French, but that's not to say that just because this film has been around before that it is tedious or in some sense 'old'. The aforementioned was a powerful and very moving film, striking in the depth of its revelations. The same can be said of 'The Chorus'. Aesthetically beautiful and unravelling an intense tale of a positive influence on broken hearts, this movie is likely to appeal to a wide audience.
No matter how many times you've seen this formula trotted out, 'The Chorus' still manages to be charming, thanks to its endearing characters. Although the script is not high in the originality stakes, some superb acting and an enchanting score by Bruno Coulais keep it well afloat.