Chorus / Les Choristes (12A)
Written by Philippe Lopes-Curval and Christophe Barratier, Directed by
Screening at FACT from 25th March-7th April 2005
You'd been forgiven for thinking you've seen it all before. There's this
school, right, and despite the teachers being really strict the pupils
fight in the dorms and run riot in the corridors. But then this idealistic
new teacher joins, and his/her slightly unconventional methods slowly
win him/her the attention and respect of the pupils. The Chorus was apparently
'inspired' by a 1945 film, but most of us know the shtick from stuff like
Dead Poet's Society, Mr. Holland's Opus and Mona
Lisa Smile to name but a few. The pattern goes fear, mild rebellion,
happiness, let down, final triumph over adversity bit.
This time we're in France, and a reform school/prison camp for children
with what might be called 'behaviour problems'. These problems seem to
include not wanting to sit still and do arithmetic when it's a nice day
outside and not taking too kindly to being slapped about by the headmaster.
When affable 'failed musician' Clément (Gerard Jugnot) takes over
as a supervisor, he discovers that music is what's needed to soothe these
savage beasts. Hmmm...I think I remember from my days as a boy soprano
that the tough kids didn't so much as admire my singing talent as my punchbag
potential, but hey, this is only fiction.
Maybe I'm being a bit harsh, because there is actually a lot to admire
about The Chorus. Every single actor puts in a faultless performance,
and the singing really is angelic if you like that kind of thing. It's
just that I didn't buy the central premise of this latest spin on what
seems to be the only possible school story ever, so everything else fell
flat. But if you haven't seen a film from this blueprint or you really
like choral music then by all means go!