Directed by: CHRISTOPHE BARRATIER
Written by: Christophe
Barratier and Philippe Lopes-Curval
Starring: GERARD JUGNOT, FRANCOIS BERLEAND, JEAN-BAPTISTE
Released by: Miramax Pictures
formulaic, this good-natured work is cozy,
sweet, the tiniest bit manipulative and a
Box Office Hit Charms in the U.S.
Bit Hollywood but Cozy and Sweet
By Andrew Bender
1949, and post-war France is deeply scarred, apparently
nowhere more so than at a boarding school for “difficult”
boys – the school’s even called “Fond
de l’Etang” (“Rock Bottom”).
Principal Rachin (François Berléand) seems
to have learned discipline techniques from France’s
Nazi occupiers, leaving the boys downtrodden and rebellious.
Fond de l’Etang is a hell of paper airplanes,
spitballs and dashed hopes.
comes a new instructor, Clément Mathieu (Gérard
Jugnot), bringing a quality the school seems to have
never known: mercy. In a place where “Silence!”
is the most used command, he tames the boys through
the opposite of silence, music.
sounds familiar, and we’re not going to tell you
that it isn’t. There’s the usual assortment
of ragamuffins: the impossibly cute orphan, the brooding,
handsome loner who turns out to have a golden throat,
the tough kid who can’t carry a tune in a bucket.
Naturally, the boys’ situation improves through
music (starting at Rock Bottom, you can only go up,
right?). They develop a détente with Monsieur
Mathieu, and the principal unravels over their success.
Familiar it may be, but it’s all so good-natured
that it’s hard to quibble.
Chorus” has been a sensation in its home country,
making a star of 14-year-old Jean-Baptiste Maunier (who
plays the brooder – he’s an actual choirboy
in real life) and of Bruno Coulais, who won a European
Film Award for composing the film’s music, which
filmgoers may appreciate "The Chorus," because
the storytelling is so darn accessible, almost –
gasp! – Hollywood. Think “Dead Poets Society”
meets “The Music Man,” if the music man
had a French accent. Unlike other French filmmakers,
director Christophe Barratier and company have no fear
of the formulaic, and with this film, at least, they’ve
brought French audiences along with them.