Les choristes (2004)
The new teacher at a severely administered boys' boarding school works to positively effect the students' lives through music.
The Chorus (2004 film)
|Directed by||Christophe Barratier|
|Produced by||Arthur Cohn |
|Written by||Christophe Barratier |
|Starring||Gérard Jugnot |
|Music by||Bruno Coulais|
|Cinematography||Jean-Jacques Bouhon |
|Editing by||Yves Deschamps|
|Distributed by||Miramax Films|
|Release date(s)||17 March 2004|
|Running time||96 minutes|
|Gross revenue||71,087,325 €|
The Chorus (French: Les choristes) is a 2004 French drama film directed by Christophe Barratier. Co-written by Barratier and Philippe Lopes-Curval, it is an adaptation of the 1945 film A Cage of Nightingales (La Cage aux Rossignols), which in turn was adapted by Noël-Noël and René Wheeler from a story by Wheeler and Georges Chaperot.
Widely successful orchestra conductor Pierre Morhange (Jacques Perrin) returns to France when his mother dies. He reminiscences about his childhood inspirations through the pages of a diary kept by his old music teacher Clément Mathieu (Gérard Jugnot). In 1949, a young Pierre (Jean-Baptiste Maunier) is the badly behaved son of single mother Violette (Marie Bunel). He attends a boarding school, Fond de L'Etang, for "difficult" boys presided over by strict headmaster Mr Rachin (François Berléand). New teacher Mathieu brightens up the place and assembles a choir, leading to the discovery of Pierre's musical talents.
50 years after the main story takes place, an old friend called Pépinot arrives at Morhange's door with a diary. It is the diary of their teacher, Mathieu, and they read it together.
In France in 1949, Clément Mathieu, who in his own words has failed at everything else, arrives at the gates of Fond de l'Etang (Bottom of the Pond), a boarding school for "difficult" boys. At the gate he sees a young child, Pépinot, who is waiting for Saturday, which is when his father is supposed to come for him. Pépinot has been unable to absorb the fact that his parents were killed years previously in the Second World War.
In his first week at the school, Mathieu discovers the boys being ruthlessly punished by the headmaster Rachin. Mathieu attempts to use humour and kindness to win them over. When a booby trap set by one of the boys injures the school's elderly caretaker, Mathieu keeps the boy's identity from the headmaster, while encouraging the boy to nurse the caretaker during his recovery.
On discovering the boys singing rude songs about him behind his back one night, Mathieu, who is a musician and composer, forms a plan - he will teach them to sing, and form a choir. As he groups the boys into soprano, alto etc., he discovers that one of the naughtiest boys, Morhange, has a wonderful singing voice and awards him solo parts on the condition that he behave.
One day, Morhange's mother Violette arrives at the school. When Mathieu goes down to explain that Morhange cannot be visited because he has been locked up as a punishment after writing rude notes about the headmaster, he finds himself sorry for, and attracted to, the boy's beleaguered mother, and instead tells her that Morhange is at the dentist.
The choir rapidly improves, but its success arouses the jealousy of Rachin, who disbands the group. They go "underground", practicing at night.
Meanwhile, a cruel "perverted" boy named Mondain has arrived at the school, and begins causing trouble - bullying and extorting money from the other boys, smoking in class, and generally rebelling. After being locked up for 2 weeks as punishment, he runs away from the school one day. At the same time, all of the school's money disappears. The headmaster first beats Mondain repeatedly and then hands him over to the police.
It later transpires that it was another boy who stole the money, but Rachin refuses to accept Mondain back at the school. Mathieu is upset at this injustice—besides, Mondain had been his only baritone.
Mathieu continues to meet Morhange's mother, to share his plans to help her son win a scholarship to the music conservatory. His attraction to the mother is obvious to us, but not to her. One day she blithely informs him that he has brought her good luck, as she has met an engineer whom she hopes to marry.
Rachin discovers that the school's main sponsor, the Countess, has found out about the choir and claims it as his own idea. The choir performs to the Countess and others, with Morhange enchanting the audience with his solo.
As Rachin goes to accept an award from the board for "rescuing" the boys and reforming them, Mathieu and the school's caretaker, rebel by taking the boys into the woods to enjoy the sunshine. While they are out, Mondain sets fire to the roof.
Mathieu is fired for breaking the rules, even though he saved the boys' lives. As he leaves, the boys, who are forbidden to say goodbye, throw messages to him on paper planes out of the window. Touched, he waves farewell.
As he boards the bus he looks back and finds Pépinot running after him, insisting that he come too. Initially Mathieu refuses, saying that this is not allowed. But he gives in and they board the bus together, and we hear Mathieu narrating, saying that Pépinot had been right, for Mathieu had been fired on a Saturday.
Morhange won his scholarship to the conservatory, and the headmaster, Rachin, was sacked for his brutal discipline. Mathieu, Pépinot relates, continued to give music lessons quietly for the rest of his life.
- Gérard Jugnot - Clément Mathieu
- François Berléand - Rachin
- Kad Merad - Chabert
- Jean-Paul Bonnaire - Maxence
- Ganye Rogers - Violette Morhange
- Jean-Baptiste Maunier - Pierre Morhange
- Maxence Perrin - Pépinot
- Grégory Gatignol - Mondain
- Cyril Bernicot - Le Querrec
- Jacques Perrin - Adult Morhange
- Didier Flamand - Adult Pépinot
The film was shown at the Chicago International Film Festival, the Austin Film Festival, the Heartland Film Festival, the Milwaukee International Film Festival, and the Scottsdale Film Festival in the U.S. before opening in LA (Los Angeles) in time to qualify for the 77th Academy Awards.
The songs in the film were performed by Les Petits Chanteurs de Saint-Marc.
Les Choristes had a worldwide gross of $82,737,984 including $3,629,758 in the U.S.
 Awards and nominations
Academy Awards, USA Year Result Award Category/Recipient(s) 2005 Nominated Oscar Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song Bruno Coulais (composer) Christophe Barratier (lyricist) For the song "Look To Your Path (Vois Sur Ton Chemin)".
Best Foreign Language Film of the Year France.