The Chorus Review
Set in a Forties French reformatory for post-war orphans and problem children, The Chorus tells the tale of a new teacher who arrives to help the children. Although the place is run by a dictatorial headmaster, Rachin, who believe that less carrot and more stick is the way to go, the new supervisor - Clement Mathieu - decides to adopt a different approach. To begin with the children treat him badly, like any other new teacher, but he slowly earns their respect and their love - much to the disdain of the cynical, damaged Director of the Institution. Along the way Mathieu rediscovers his own lost talent, as a musician, when he decides to teach the children how to sing. Creating a choir he bonds with the fractured, often friend and family-less kids, unlocking their true strengths and weaknesses and capturing their hearts in the process.
The Chorus is like a cross between Scum and Dead Poet's Society, leaning more towards the latter in terms of sentiment. Whilst it has its more serious moments - and plays as a drama throughout - it retains a warm feeling throughout, playing as the kind of nice feel-good movie that is a joy to watch, without ever lapsing into syrupy-sweet cliché. I'm sure that it helps no end that this is a French production - they somehow managed to make a drama about a group of boys learning how to sing without making it camp as hell (unlike the aptly-titled U.S. movie Camp for example).
The French cast are all superb as well. Clearly Gerard Jugnot as Claude Mathieu takes the main stage and does a superb job. The actor who plays the fascist headmaster, Francois Berleand, had an English-speaking part in the fun, French-set Jason Statham vehicle, The Transporter (which is finally getting a sequel later this year) - here he is thoroughly believable as the director of the institution even though it is not a very likeable character to play. Jean-Baptiste Maunier, the child actor who plays Pierre - one of the kids the supervisor has a great deal of trouble with but who has a particular talent for singing - stands out as being particularly good and Marie Bunel, the French actress who plays his mother, Violette, is notable if only for being one of the few women in the movie.
The Chorus is a nice, warm little French movie that captures the essence of teaching with none of the cynicism that the modern age has invoked in the profession. Although it is probably not to everybody's tastes - some might feel it too small-scale and meandering to fully captivate your interest - many will warm to the feel-good sentiment that runs throughout.