The Chorus (Les Choristes)—Miramax
There's nothing more refreshingly un-Hollywood than a movie that glorifies classical music and good teachers. Set in postwar France, it tells the story of an assistant principal (Jean-Paul Bonnaire) who arrives at a grim, shadowy school for unruly boys, run by a harsh disciplinarian. Succeeding where his boss has failed, he wins the kids' cooperation. Then he turns the ragtag bunch into a heavenly chorus with a particularly somber and angelic boy soprano (Jean-Baptiste Maunier) in the lead.
The plot is straightforward melodrama with just enough twists to avoid predictability. It's merely a backdrop for sublime musical interludes, in which the teacher conducts the now world-class chorus in songs about hope and redemption. The movie attracted Oscar nominations for Best Foreign Film and Best Song.
In a movie that hinges on music, sound is critical. Here, it arrives via Dolby Digital 5.1. There is no rear-surround channel (not a serious omission) and no DTS (although the theatrical release employed both). Fortunately, the mix is perfectly tuned for boy sopranos, and the orchestra receives a soft focus to let the high, peeping voices come across without edginess. Heartfelt moments when the lighting suddenly turns golden are well served by the 2.40:1 anamorphic transfer.
Special features are completely absent. Too bad—the disc release of a movie full of rowdy kids should come with a reel of outtakes. While there's nothing maladroit about this release, the movie really does deserve a special edition.