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Les Choristes

By Violet LeVoit | Posted 2/23/2005

Post-war France is still licking her scars, and frustrated musician Clément Mathieu (Gérard Jugnot) has taken a last-ditch position as a teacher in a school for “discipline problems.” Unwilling to accept the draconian headmaster’s merciless eye-for-eye “Action-Reaction!” philosophy of institutional sadism, he embarks on an experiment of unheard-of generosity and reshapes these wayward urchins into an angel-voiced choir. Under his guidance, these scuff-kneed boys’ ice-clear voices seem capable of washing the world clean—and, lo and behold, their rough-edged universe slowly sweetens. A nearly perfect elegy to the redemptive power of music (and a reaffirmation of how good deeds are not exempt from the principle of “Action-Reaction”), Les Choristes resonates with innocence, magic, and hope. Jugnot’s Mathieu is a fairy godfather with a baton, the only teacher who knows the most precious gifts an adult can bestow upon a child are Attention and Respect. The unprecious, unprecocious cast of child actors are adorable without being saccharine, especially Maxence Perrin (as forlorn as a threadbare teddy bear) and the stellarly talented Jean-Baptiste Maunier (who can anticipate a future of breaking gay and straight hearts alike). A movie about the omnipotence of music must provide a strong case in point, and this one does not stint. The cast’s exquisite renditions of boy-choir standards vein the soundtrack like molten silver and act as tonic for the soul. What Cinema Paradiso did for motion pictures, Les Choristes does for music. All sentimental fools capable of reading subtitles must go.

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