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The Chorus DVD Review

The Chorus (Les Choristes)

US Theatrical Release: January 14, 2005 / Running Time: 97 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Christophe Barratier

Cast: Gérard Jugnot (Clément Mathieu), Jean-Paul Bonnaire (La Père Maxence), François Berléand (Monsieur Rachin), Marie Bunel (Violette Morhange), Philippe Du Janerand (Monsieur Langlois), Jean-Baptiste Maunier (Pierre Morhange), Grégory Gatignol (Mondain), Maxence Perrin (Pépinot), Thomas Blumenthal (Corbin), Cyril Bernicot (Le Querrec), Simon Fargeot (Boniface), Théodul Carré-Cassaigne (Leclerc), Kad Merad (Chabert)

Review by Aaron Wallace

Clément Mathieu (Gérard Jugnot) is the new prefect (a supervisor of sorts who ranks just below the headmaster) at a boarding school for troubled children in need of discipline. On his first day on the job, Clément realizes he faces a formidable task.
The children are rowdy, disrespectful, and show no regard for education or authority. Whether their parents don't want them, can't afford to keep them, or a court has ordered them to be there, all the students attend the school against their will. Indeed, on his introductory tour of the school, Clément finds one of the staff members severely injured by a malicious booby trap set by one of the particularly insubordinate children.

Equally disturbing to the new prefect is the school administration, which is as ruthlessly intolerant of misbehavior as the children are of discipline. The unsavory headmaster, M. Rachin (François Berléand), a man of cruelty and selfish ambitions, drills into his faculty's heads the policy of "action-reaction," discipline without sufficient reason or mercy.

The resulting war between students and administration leaves Clément in an awkward position. The children must be kept in line, but M. Rachin's tactics seem too harsh for the loving and passionate prefect. At the risk of his job, he decides there must be a better way to reach and inspire the children. He finds that inspiration in his own passion, music.

Clément Mathieu nervously addresses his first class. Clément helps Morhange out of a sticky situation.

Against great odds, he secures the headmaster's permission and the children's cooperation in turning his four o'clock study hall into a chorus. In doing so, he gives the students something to care about and comes to see them as individuals. There's Le Querrec (Cyril Bernicot), an apparent culprit merely in need of guidance, and Pépinot (Maxence Perrin), a shy young boy in search of his father, and Mondain (Grégory Gatignol), the most unruly child of all, having been brought to the school as part of a behavioral psychology study.

The student that most grabs Clément's attention, though, is Pierre Morhange (Jean-Baptiste Maunier), renowned as the school's biggest troublemaker. While the other students work together at mastering their vocals, Morhange is either causing disruptions or keeping to himself. Clément soon finds that many of the young boy's problems stem from missing his mother (Marie Bunel), a beautiful woman with whom Clément soon takes particular interest. When Pierre eventually comes around and joins the choir, Clément learns that he commands phenomenal singing talent.

Though they sound a bit rusty at first, with a bit of practice, the ragtag group of students soon emerge as a beautiful chorus. They come together not only in song, but in brotherhood, with loving admiration for their prefect, who they lovingly refer to as "Chrome Dome." Together, they set out to expose M. Rachin's cruelty and change the school.

The menacing headmaster, Monsieur Rachin, explains his philosophy of "action-reaction." Mondain has a dangerous attitude.

The Chorus makes for an enjoyable viewing experience. It's well-scored and the chorus and each of the students that comprise it really do sound angelic (at the expense of believability, perhaps, but the story wouldn't work otherwise, so one overlooks this). Gérard Jugnot does a very good job at playing a caring, sometimes flustered, mostly unassuming prefect at a 1940s French school. So does the rest of the cast, for that matter, especially the two stand-out child stars, Jean-Baptiste Maunier (whose singing voice is the highlight of the choral performances) and Maxence Perrin.

The story isn't exactly original; the maverick-teacher-turns-kids-into-singers story has been done many times. In fact, The Chorus is based on the very similar 1945 French film, La Cage Aux Rossignols. Still, the dialogue and cinematography are excellent. While it may not be the stunning masterpiece one might expect from an award-winning, Oscar-nominated (Best Original Song, Best Foreign Language Film) Miramax-distributed French film, it is a well-made and very touching movie. Unfortunately, the DVD isn't nearly as pleasing as the film itself.

Buy The Chorus (Les Choristes) DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound (French)
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Closed Captioned
Release Date: May 3, 2005
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Black Keepcase


The Chorus is correctly presented in the very wide aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and has been enhanced for 16x9 televisions. The DVD presents a decent transfer, with only the slightest bit of grain throughout. There is very little ringing around edges and when it does occur, it's very minor.

The film's original French soundtrack is given Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound treatment. The audio is consistently crisp, full, and well-mixed. The rear speakers don't get a lot of exercise, but then, the film doesn't offer much reason for them to. The excellent soundtrack shines in the audio presentation.


Sadly, The Chorus isn't accompanied by even so much as a trailer, or any other bonus feature, for that matter. The disc does open with a look at Miramax's available home video library and the theatrical trailer for Dear Frankie, neither of which are accessible from the main menu.

The simple menus are silent and feature still montages in the "full screen" 4:3 aspect ratio.

Finally: a chorus! Morhange adds his phenomenal singing talents to the chorus' voices.


So long as you aren't expecting to be floored, The Chorus is a good movie. I have no problems recommending the movie itself to just about anyone (of appropriate age, of course, as there are a few suggestive moments in the film). The DVD, unfortunately, is another matter. Sure, aside from a little bit of grain, the video and audio quality is satisfactory, but the complete lack of bonus features is still disheartening. However, the movie is good enough that you very well may want to see it more than once, so even without supplements, everyone is encouraged to consider this DVD.

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Reviewed May 7, 2005.

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