Les Choristies

Directed by Christophe Barratier. France. 2004.

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Lets set the scene from my end.  You’re not planning on going out, but you find your local cinema has a foreign film on (shock, horror).  Now I’ve had some poor cinema experiences recently and I know that those little oiks will stay well clear of subtitles and French choral singing.  Luckily, it turned out well as it was myself and a young couple who I worried would just suck face in the back row, but instead sat there and enjoyed this little pleasure of a film.

We have seen this all before in Dead Poets Society, Sister Act and Goodbye Mr. Chips.  A good teacher at a bad school, in this case L’Fond Egant (translated ‘Rock Bottom’), who finds himself re-establishing himself as a teacher and something to gain the attention of the children with: the choral singing gives the children something to concentrate on and gives him the reason to write music again.  The reason as to why he stopped writing is never explained, but his leaving of a female muse is favourite.  There is also the talented student who is initially unwilling, but whose flashback this movie belongs to, emphasising the teacher’s influence on his eventual career as a world-famous conductor.  However, the scenes between master and student are not expanded enough to warrant such a significant influence.

Despite these plot holes and obvious amount of cliché, the lead actor Gerald Jugnot is wonderful and spritely in his role and he is equalled by the headmaster, Kad Mared who brings a headmaster role some grit behind a horrid character who wants acclaim but yearns for some childhood memory.  The singing and children are well mannered and reaches the right level of sentiment, never reaching, nor pulling heartstrings.  

In spite of it being foreign, the themes are universal about teacher and pupil, becoming who you are from an early age.  And even though we have seen it all before and it is full of cliché (much like myself repeating myself) it does offer good value for 90 minutes of entertainment.

Jamie Garwood
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