InsidePulse DVD Review – The Chorus


(Credit: www.DVDtown.com)

Director:

Christophe Barratier

Cast:

Gérard Jugnot………. Clément Mathieu
François Berléand………. Rachin
Kad Merad………. Chabert
Jean-Baptiste Maunier ………. Pierre Morhange
Maxence Perrin………. Pépinot
Grégory Gatignol………. Mondain
Cyril Bernicot………. Le Querrec

Miramax Films presents a Canal+ Production. Running time: 97 Minutes. Rated PG-13 (Language/sexual references and mild violence).

The Movie:

The Chorus is a charming little movie about a ragtag choir in an all boys school for troubled youth in the late 1940s. The film begins in modern times, but quickly flashes back to 1949, using the journal of Clément Mathieu (Gérard Jugnot) as the window into the past. Mathieu has found his way into a prefect (student monitor) job at the school, and being a prefect, he quickly forges a relationship with the children. Mathieu understands that reactionary punishment would only enrage the children, so he focus on gaining the boys trust by defending them against a wicked and cruel headmaster (François Berléand).

Mathieu, is not a educator at heart, but a musician. He desires to be a world class composer, but has never had the chance to display his skill for a large audience. Within a week, the boys begin singing a song mocking the balding prefect, but Mathieu was not phased, instead he turns the situation into a positive, thinking, “Well, they are singing.”

After Mathieu figures out the boys can sing, the film develops rather quickly, as the choir seemingly takes shape overnight. Mathieu forges a special bond with a young child Pépinot (Maxence Perrin), whose angelic face is comparable only to younger Freddie Highmore. Like most aspects of this film, the bond between Mathieu and Pépinot is subtle, yet strong and realistic. The development of a relationship between these two character pays off beautifully in the end, creating a lovely conclusion to Mathieu’s story.

Mathieu’s faith in the children contrasts the headmaster perfectly, creating a conflict that is developed thought the sharp wit of Mathieu and the ignorance of the Headmaster. One of the more interesting subplots in The Chorus is “action-reaction.” This system of punishment is defined as a equal or harsher reactions to the actions of the child. More interestingly, as the systems flaws are exposed, and Headmaster becomes more relentless in believe in abusive punishment towards the children.

Yet, this film is flawed. The story is warm, heart felt, and often times funny, but it never felt rewarding. The Chorus chugs along as a fairly rapid pace, but there never is a great connection between the audience and the film itself. As the film plays out, and the events unfold, one gets a feeling of hollowness. The children all being to look alike, and few stand out in the cast. Besides Pierre Morhange (Jean-Baptiste Maunier), who is Mathieu’s star pupil, no one other child in the choir stands out. This tends to be a problem in all films cast with children. Unless the kids eats bugs, stick things up their noses, or are missing limbs, they’re just not going to stand out in a group.

The ending is also a bone of contention, as it feels rushed and somewhat incomplete. The reflection ends when Mathieu’s journal ends, and then one of the adults reflecting on Mathieu’s life quickly fills in 40 or so years before he dies. Director Christophe Barratier choose to bookend the film, while doing so, also removes any bit of imagination the audience may apply to Mathieu’s life. This is an unfortunate ending which crushed a fair amount of the hopefulness the film was building. By ‘bookending’ the film, it only provides four or five minutes of film, and removes 90 minutes of hopefulness and optimism.

The final problem is small, but something that is important. This film occurs in 1949, and the private school is captured well, in all its bland glory. On the other hand France is unrealistic. Consider, the second world war had just finished, the Nazi’s left France war torn, battered, and quiet the mess. But the film portrays France as completely rebuilt and unharmed. Sometimes, focusing onto the little details makes a film great, and when those detail are missed, it can destroy the world a filmmaker is trying to create.

Score: 7 / 10

The DVD

Video: Bland and grey, just like the 1940s.

The video looks fine. Nothing to really complain about here. At points it is dark and bland, but that’s more of a characteristic of the 1940s then the film making itself. Nothing is offensive, nothing is amazing, the video is just there and does little more. As one would expect, the film is presented in widescreen format, enhanced for a 16×9 television.

Score: 7 / 10

Sound: The sound of angels!

What The Chorus does brilliantly is sound. The choir comes together quickly, and sounds absolutely breathtaking. The soundtrack features the Lyon-based Petits Chanteurs de Saint Marc. These young men are brilliantly trained singers, and solos by Jean-Baptiste Maunier can best be described as haunting. The music of The Chorus is what one expects from a movie centered around music, and is truly the best part of the film. Sound is in Dolby Digital 5.1, anything less would take away from the soundtrack.

There is one problem, the dubbing of the music is off. When the boys are singing, the music seems to be a split second off their mouth movements. This is enough to distract, but not enough to annoy.

Additionally, those who understand French are more likely to get enjoyment out of this film. In all cases of subtitles, a little bit of magic is lost when words flash up on the screen.

Score: 9.5 / 10

The Extras: What extras?

Well, did Miramax forget to put in DVD extras? Painfully there are none, zilch, zero, nothing! Yeah, no extras. Remember, Miramax is owned by Disney, and Disney does fantastic jobs on Disney DVDs, but there is no effort put into this Miramax title. Massive disappointment would be an understatement.

Score: 0 / 10 – Cannot grade what is not there.

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