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Les Choristes
Directed by Christophe Barratier
Produced by Arthur Cohn
Jacques Perrin
Gérard Jugnot
Written by Christophe Barratier
Philippe Lopes-Curval
Starring Gérard Jugnot
François Berléand
Kad Merad
Jean-Baptiste Maunier
Music by Bruno Coulais
Cinematography Jean-Jacques Bouhon
Dominique Gentil
Carlo Varini
Editing by Yves Deschamps
Distributed by Miramax Films
Release date(s) France:
March 17, 2004
United States:
December 22, 2004
United Kingdom:
March 11, 2005
Running time 96 minutes
Language French
Budget 5,500,000

The Chorus (Les choristes) is a 2004 French drama film directed by Christophe Barratier. Co-written by Barratier and Philippe Lopes-Curval, it is a remake of the 1945 film A Cage of Nightingales (La Cage aux Rossignols), which was adapted by Noël-Noël and René Wheeler from a story by Wheeler and Georges Chaperot.

The film explores the pain of a child's separation from his parents and the transcendence of music as the greatest form of expression.

Contents

Synopsis

Wildly successful orchestra conductor Pierre Morhange (Jacques Perrin) returns home when his mother dies. He recollects his childhood inspirations through the pages of a diary kept by his old music teacher Clément Mathieu (Gérard Jugnot). Back in the late '40s, little Pierre (Jean-Baptiste Maunier) is the badly behaved son of single mother Violette (Marie Bunel). He attends a dreary boarding school for "difficult" boys presided over by strict headmaster Rachin (François Berléand). New teacher Mathieu brightens up the place and organizes a choir, leading to the discovery of Pierre's musical talents.

Plot

One day, 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...

France, 1949. Clément Mathieu, who in his own words has failed at everything else, arrives at the gates of Fond de l'Etang, a boarding school for "difficult" boys. At the gate he sees a young child, Pépinot, who is waiting for Saturday's visiting day to come, in hope of seeing his parents. Pépinot has been unable to absorb the fact that his parents were killed years previously by the Nazis.

In his first week at the school, Mathieu discovers the boys being ruthlessly punished by the headmaster Rachin. He 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 a 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 turns up at the school. When Mathieu goes down to explain that Morhange cannot be visited because he has been locked up as a punishment, he finds himself sorry for (and attracted to) the boy's beleagured 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", practising 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 disappears 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 Pierre'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 perform to the Countess and others, with Morhange enchanting the audience by his solo.

As Rachin goes to accept an award from the board for "rescuing" the boys and reforming them, Mathieu and another teacher, Maxence, 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.

As he boards the bus he 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. Afterwards, as the credits roll, we hear that Morhange won his scholarship to the conservatory, and Rachin was sacked for his brutal discipline. Mathieu, Pépinot relates, continued to give music lessons quietly for the rest of his life.

Production notes

The film was shot on location at Château de Ravel in Puy-de-Dôme.

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.[1]

Principal cast

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.

References

External links

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