Audiences love films about underdogs that overcome. One of the most beloved sub-genres in film history involves a seemingly controversial or unorthodox schoolteacher sparking the inspiration of students to rise above and achieve greatness. It's a familiar story that translates to nearly any era, setting, and subject. We've seen the effect of literature on a group of boys at a New England prep school in Dead Poets Society. Inner-city teens found confidence through calculus in Stand and Deliver. And then there's the transforming power of music, as shown in movies like Mr. Holland's Opus and Music of the Heart.
The French film Les Choristes (The Chorus) follows in this tradition and last year met with incredible success in its homeland, outperforming Harry Potter and other big budget film imports. Pretty impressive for the first feature film by director and composer Christophe Barratier, who adapted the screenplay from a little known 1945 film called The Cage of the Nightingales. The new movie's soundtrack features choral music by leading French composer Bruno Coulais and also became a surprise hit, contributing to an unexpected resurgence in classical youth choirs in France.
Les Choristes is set in post-World War II France, a time of social restructuring and economic recovery from German occupation. Not many movies have adequately dealt with what the French faced in the aftermath. Considering how many children were orphaned as a result, it's not surprising that the government instated correctional houses designed to discipline with military strictness—"Spare the rod, spoil the children."
One such school is L'Fond de L'Etang, which literally means "Rock Bottom," an old French castle that looks very much like a prison. When ...1
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Les Choristes (The Chorus)
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