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The Independent Critic

Gerard Jugnot, Francois Berleand
Christophe Barratier
Christophe Barratier, Philippe Curval
96 Mins.
Miramax (USA)
 "The Chorus" Review 

"The Chorus" captured the Crystal Heart Award during the 2004 Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis, and has garnered two Oscar nominations, for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Original Song, "Look to your Path."

"The Chorus" may seem a bit familiar in the sense that it generally follows the storyline of such familiar films as "Mr. Holland's Opus" and "Music of the Heart." What makes this film better? Far above the previous films?

First, is the leading performance of Gerard Jugnot, who plays a teacher who lures these castaway children towards music and "saves them." It is a simple, familiar story brought to life uniquely and touchingly.

"The Chorus" will also bring to mind such Dickens' classics as "Oliver" in the sense that the school portrayed is portrayed very darkly, almost dungeon-like. The children who are here are here because nobody wants them...they are cast away from society and left in the hands of a principal who abuses them (and the other teachers) and teachers who simply seem to not care.

It is, perhaps, this balance of the Dickensian approach with the "Mr. Holland" approach that makes the film so much more powerful. Where "Mr. Holland's Opus" basically manipulated your emotions to feel the birth of the children in question, "The Chorus" uses every production value it has available to create an environment of despair and THEN lifts the children and shows them their ability to soar above the clouds. It is magnificent, enlightening and powerful.

The score, almost entirely original, is magnificent and the chorus itself is marvelous. Unlike familiar choruses in such films as "Sister Act" and the musicians in "Mr. Holland's Opus" and "Music of the Heart," these children really bring their characters to life...they bring the music to life wondrously.

Director Christophe Barratier has directed such beautiful films as "Winged Migration" and "Himalaya", and uses his gift for visualization in creating powerful, lasting images in this film. His ability to balance the innocence and hopefulness being born within the chorus with the stark surroundings is simply magnificent.

"The Chorus" is unlikely to capture the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, however, rest assured that it is truly a marvelous, captivating and rewarding film that inspires, rewards and affirms its viewers.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic