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Miramax Pictures presents
The Chorus (Les Choristes) (2004)

"You see evil everywhere."
- Clément Mathieu

Review By: Chuck Aliaga  
Published: May 02, 2005

Stars: Gerard Jugnot, Francois Berleand, Kad Merad
Other Stars: Jean-Paul Bonnaire, Marie Buinel, Jean-Baptiste Maunier
Director: Jean Dreville

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for (some language, sexual reference, violence)
Run Time: 01h:36m:43s
Release Date: May 03, 2005
UPC: 786936282559
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- AA+A- D+

DVD Review

It wouldn't be an Oscar season without the juggernaut "independent" film studio that is Miramax putting millions of dollars into campaigns to get their entries nominated for huge awards. While the number of campaigns that Miramax employs every year has decreased, they still manage to get many a picture in the spotlight come Oscar time.

The Chorus (Les Choristes) is a Miramax film that slipped under the Hollywood radar until it received a rather shocking nomination from the Academy for Best Foreign Language Film, as well as a nod for Best Original Song. While it won neither, losing in the former category to The Sea Inside, the attention boosted The Chorus to a rather successful domestic box-office run to the tune of $3 million on a handful of screens.

Watching The Chorus, I couldn't help thinking that I was seeing a French remake of School of Rock, set in the late 1940s. Of course, not all of the same story arcs that were in the Jack Black vehicle are in this one, but it's got that feel-good, slightly funny vibe to it.

The Chorus stars Gérard Jugnot as Clément Mathieu, newly hired to teach at a boarding school that rehabilitates young boys. The headmaster at the school is Rachin (François Berléand), an incredibly strict hate-monger who seems to take pleasure in seeing the children punished when they stretch the rules of the school even ever so slightly. Mathieu is a goodhearted lover of music who decides that having the children form a chorus is a good way to steer them down a path to a new, structured life.

At first, the kids are completely unresponsive to Mathieu, but once he shows them that he even enjoys the songs they are singing that poke fun directly at him, he has them on board with his chorus idea. Mathieu finds real singing talent in young Pierre Morhange, who is one of the more frequently punished of the group. This boy has a truly gifted voice, but he is initially unwilling to use it given his disdain for the way life has treated him.

When Morhange's mother visits for the first time, Mathieu meets her and is instantly enamored. Due to both his attraction to Morhange's mother and his care for the boy, Mathieu turns much of his attention to getting Morhange out of the boarding school and into one of the finest music schools in the world. Despite the advances that Mathieu is making with all of the boys, he must constantly fight the single-minded Rachin to keep his chorus together.

I really didn't expect to be as drawn in as I was by The Chorus, as I feared this would be yet another of that tired formula of a new teacher coming into a harsh environment and turning his students behavior and lives around. Sure, quite a bit of that formula is in place, but the story as a whole, and the way the actors completely embody their characters, results in a fresh, moving tale.

The key to a movie like this, for me, is if it has me either shedding, or at least close to tears near the end, and just enough of my heartstrings were tugged by this one to have me a bit choked up. There's a difference between a story and/or director deliberately manipulating an audience's emotions to draw out a teary response (see Finding Neverland), and a story just being a moving experience without any extra effort from a director or writer, and the latter is definitely the case with The Chorus.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.40:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This is a simply gorgeous 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, impressing viewers with each and every second that passes. The gorgeously rendered color palette spreads far and wide across the spectrum, aided by solid blacks, accurate fleshtones, and expertly handled contrast. Sharp, extremely detailed images are a constant, but there are maybe two instances where outdoor background images lose a bit of detail. There isn't even a hint of dirt or grain, or anything else that could be distracting.

Image Transfer Grade: A+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: While the Dolby Digital 5.1 track isn't quite as impressive as the awesome video, it still does a fine job broadcasting these young boys' excellent voices. The surrounds are consistently used for this music, but that's pretty much where their usage stops. Everything else is up front, including the sharp, clear dialogue, which works great in the overall mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Dear Frankie
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Sadly, the only extra feature is a single trailer for a film called Dear Frankie.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

Almost out of nowhere comes The Chorus, a wonderful French film that received more recognition than expected. Unfortunately, this DVD is as bare-bones as it gets, albeit with excellent audio and video presentations.


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