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Les Choristes

Director: Christophe Barratier

FRANCE/SWITZERLAND| 2004| FRENCH W/ENGLISH SUBTITLES| COLOUR| 95 MINS


With Les Choristes, first-time director Christophe Barratier has crafted a warm and melodious tribute to the power of music. Most of the pupils at the austere Fond de l’Etang (which translates as ‘bottom of the pond’) boarding school are bullies and pranksters whose parents have given up on them; others are orphans who have recently lost their families to World War II. These rebellious youngsters endure day after day under the thumb of headmaster Rachin (François Berleand), a sour-faced disciplinarian who terrifies his students and resolves issues by banishing boys into solitary confinement.
Into this decidedly unhappy environment comes Clement Mathieu (Gerard Jugnot), a beautiful dreamer trapped in the form of a frumpy, middle-aged music teacher. Hired as a mere assistant, the big-hearted Clement quickly recognises the pupils’ desperation for real encouragement and respect. When he discovers that several of the boys are gifted singers, Clement skirts around Rachin’s policies and arranges the students into a choir. While incurring the wrath of his superior, the teacher gamely suffers the boys’ pranks, nurtures their talents and eventually wins their trust through the music they create together. Remarkably, the worst of the bullies even emerges as the choir’s angel-voiced soloist.
Prolific composer Bruno Coulais (Microcosmos and Le Peuple migrateur) has crafted a stirring and evocative score that perfectly complements the choral refrains which resound throughout the film. A loose remake of Jean Dreville’s 1945 musical La Cage aux Rossignols, Les Choristes also shares important elements with the moving classroom documentary Être et avoir and with the immensely popular Shine.

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