The Chorus (12A)
Time Out saysCross-channel traffic in the boarding-school movie hit a peak with Lindsay Anderson’s crib from Vigo’s ‘Zéro de Conduite’ for the all-cylinders climax of ‘If…’ (with more than a semblance of Truffaut’s ‘The 400 Blows’ en route). Not quite returning the compliment, this French box-office smash takes its cookie-cutter inspiration from a different tradition – the motivational piety and porridge of ‘Goodbye, Mr Chips’ and its clan. Framed as a photo-album memory dusted off by a veteran conductor and his childhood pal, it recalls the post-war season at Fond de l’Étang (‘Rock Bottom’), a rural boardinghouse-cum-borstal, when the fusty shutters of the school’s authoritarian regime were eased open by an enlightened Samaritan pedagogue with hope for his charges’ hearts.
As embodied by the popular French actor Gérard Jugnot, Clément Mathieu is a decorous, self-minding fellow of musical bent, not instantly set for the unabashed hostility his students show him. Tousle-haired but troubled, this ragbag of lopsided ragamuffins is unwittingly awaiting an empathetic patron who believes in transformation through the conductor’s baton rather than the cane – although his ditzy fancy for one boy’s mother puts the dampeners on that rapprochement and stretches out the plot. Sincere in its sentimentality, it’s a cutely optimistic film that believes in the honeyed larynx as metaphor for the golden heart; the characterisation is contrived and the plotting broad and erratic, but at least the acting is more self-contained than the constantly swelling soundtrack.
Fri Mar 11, 2005
<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5