The French import ‘Les Choristes’ is the kind of familiar, lighthearted film that has been done before in many variations, but which is pleasant and appealing enough to be watched and appreciated because it is made in simplicity and doesn’t make pretensions about itself. It is about a humble, ordinary music instructor, Clement Mathieu (Gerard Jugnot), considered by most to be a failed individual in life, because of his lack of a definite career achievement, who joins the authoritarian boarding school known as ‘bottom of the bond’. The school is named as such because of its accumulation of derelict pupils from across France, including orphans, invalids and the sort, who despise all form of control, setting about traps for their teachers and treating them with disregard.
When Clement steps in as superintendent, he learns to deal with the youngsters at his disposal not by bullying them into submission, tactics favored by most including the sadistic headmaster, but by siding with them and treating them as who they are – children in search of a purpose. That purpose becomes music, Clement’s specialty and his medium for exercising restraint over the little ones, while the they become his muse. They taunt him at first and call him names, steal his musical notes and are contemptuous of his status, yet he tunes himself to be likeable and amicable, siding with and giving them reverence, making him more accessible than the rest of his fellow stern tutors. His methods, based on simplicity and mutual respect, soon become visibly effective, raising the ire of the others. During the course of teaching his musical class, new talents are also discovered and positive traits encouraged, with the bonds between pupil and educator growing stronger and a choral resistance occurring.
Many aspects of ‘Les Choristes’ are grounded by formula, such as the despicableness of the headmaster presented in true prison warder fashion, the onset of a new, rebellious outsider joining class, signaling major changes and the growing closeness of both teacher and student towards each other. In fact, everything is presented as a kind of children’s prison tale set in an orphanage. Though unoriginal and slight, ‘Les Choristes’ still ends up becoming a fruitful mixture of a classroom tale and pleasing reformatory comedy that sells itself on the basis of being a genuine, definite and welcome crowd pleaser.
- by Faizan Rashid [Rated 3.5 out of 5]