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Les Choristes (literally "The Choristers", translated as The Chorus) is a 2004 French-language film.
America, present day. Wildly successful orchestra conductor Pierre Morhange is called back to France for his mother's funeral, and is visited by Pépinot, his one-time classmate. He's brought a photograph of their school years, and the diary that their teacher kept.
Rewind back to 1949. Clément Mathieu, a failed musician, accepts a post at 'Fond de l'Etang' ('Rock Bottom'), a school for delinquent boys. Horrified both by their behaviour and the brutally repressive methods of headmaster Rachin, he begins to teach his class music as a way to get their attention. It... doesn't all go according to plan.
Les Choristes provides examples of:
- The '40s: The story of Mathieu at Fond de l'Etang is set in the late 1940's. The consequences of the war are mentioned: Pépinot's parents disappeared during the war. There is also a boy who sings a song dedicated to the leader of Vichy France, Marshal Pétain (Maréchal, nous voilà !).
- Arc Words: Ne Jamais Dire Jamais (Never Say Never)
- Bawdy Song: Mondain loves these.
- Bittersweet Ending: When the school burns down, Mathieu is out of a job, having recently been told the woman he loves is with another man (who the viewer is told leaves her shortly afterwards). The only thing stopping it from being a total Downer is the audience's knowledge of Morhange's future and the adoption of Pépinot by Mathieu.
- Blithe Spirit: Clément Mathieu, a failed musician, arrives in a school where there is a vicious cricle of malfeasances by the pupils and harsh punishments by the headmaster. He will shake things up thanks to music.
- Boarding School of Horrors: A sadist headmaster, a dungeon fit for a Hellhole Prison, bullies... A pupil even committed suicide.
- Broken Ace: Implied with Rachin, a former trumpet player who clearly states he had no desire to be a teacher. His broken dreams clearly put him just as much at the "rock bottom" as the children.
- The Bully: Mondain bullies Pépinot. He demands money to let him into the dormitory.
- Bunny Ears Picture Prank: Someone is putting bunny ears behind Rachin's head in the film poster, as seen in the page image.
- But Now I Must Go: Mathieu, who has given hope to the boys and has given Morhange an opportunity to start a musical career, has to leave in the end: he is fired by Rachin.
- Calling Me a Logarithm: A boy is offended when Mathieu tells him that he is a baritone.
- Catchphrase: "Action-Reaction" is constantly spouted by several characters.
- Chekhov's Gun: "My parents are coming for me on Saturday." Said by the orphaned Pépinot, despite visiting days not being on Saturday. Then Mathieu adopts him after he gets fired. When was he fired? On a Saturday.
- The boy who wanted to become a hot-air balloon pilot when he grew up. It turns out he was behind the theft Mondain was sent to prison for, all because he wanted to buy a hot air balloon.
- Cherubic Choir: The music is diegetic here, but it nevertheless symbolizes a new hope for these children living in a harsh environment.
- Cool Teacher: Clément Mathieu is not technically a teacher, but a supervisor. He nevertheless teaches music. He is cool: he protects the children from Rachin, he organizes funny activities like a treasure hunt.
- Dean Bitterman: Rachin, the headmaster. He inflicts harsh punishment on the pupils. He only reluctantly accepts that Clément sets up a choir and finally he forbids it.
- Did Not Get the Girl: Mathieu does not charm his Love Interest, Morhange's mother. She falls in love with an engineer who later dumps her.
- Disappeared Dad: Morhange's father has left and only his mother brings him up.
- Disproportionate Retribution: One of the key themes is how the boys are used to a cycle of them doing something bad, and regardless of the punishment are beaten by Mr Rachin, sent to the cell and forced to clean the school.
- Dreadful Musician: Corbin's singing is so off-key that Mathieu makes him into the choir's music stand.
- Driven to Suicide: Mouton threw himself off the roof of the school, because of the harsh punishments.
- Dustbin School: Fond de l'Etang is a school for delinquent boys.
- Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon: Régent, the previous supervisor, describes Morhange as this.
- Fired Teacher: Clément Mathieu is not technically a teacher, but a supervisor. He nevertheless teaches music. In the end, he is fired because he organized a treasure hunt.
- Foregone Conclusion: The opening sequence shows that Morhange has had a successful career as a profesional musician.
- Framing Device: The bulk of the story (Mathieu's stay at Fond de l'Étang in the late 1940's) is framed by the story of the adult Morhange who reads Clément Mathieu's diary.
- Heartwarming Orphan: Pépinot. His parents disappeared during the war. He is bullied by the other children (notably Mondain). He gets a happy ending, when Clément Mathieu decides to adopt him.
- Hidden Depths: Mathieu originally believes Chabert to be a strong supporter of Rachin's policies, but he is quickly revealed to be a genial, decent guy who helps Mathieu with his choir.
- Rachin is shown trying to make his own paper airplanes and plays a game of football with the children, but this is later subverted.
- Ironic Echo: "I am Clément Mathieu, a musician and each night I compose for [the children]." becomes "I am Clément Mathieu, a failed musician; a surveillant without employment."
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Both of the other two supervisors are initially seen as disinterested or disciplinarian, yet Chabert later helps Mathieu run the choir after it is banned and Langlois ends up playing the piano for the group.
- Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: At the middle of the movie, as the students behaviour is improving and the success of Mathieu's methods become apparent, Rachin at first seems to mellow in his harshness and become kinder, playing football with the students he previously despised. Towards the end of the film however, as he takes credit for Mathieu's work and then fires him for breaking the school rules by taking the boys out for a picnic, even though he saved their lives from the fire, it turns out that he's still the same bastard he was before.
- Karma Houdini: If Mondain is caught after setting the school on fire, we don't get to see it. He was, however punished for stealing the school's money when it was not him.
- La Résistance: Thanks to Rachin banning the choir, Mathieu jokingly calls them this after they practice in private.
- Last-Name Basis: The students are referred to by their last names.
- Loser Protagonist: Rachin calls Mathieu a failed musician. Langlois is surprised that he is still only a supervisor at his age. Mathieu himself acknowledges that he is a failed musician.
- Meaningful Name: The only teacher who tries to help/forgive/accept the boys at the school has a name that means 'merciful' (Clément Mathieu).
- Rachin's name could be derived from the verb "cracher", to spit. Also similar to "requin" (shark).
- Morhange, referring to how Mr Régent called him "The face of an angel, but the mind of the devil".
- Mistaken for Pedophile: The kids steal Mathieu's musical scores. They hide in the toilet to have a look at them. Mathieu notices it and goes into the toilet to get back his scores. Then, Chabert enters the toilet and tells Mathieu that he wants none of that here.
- Music Stories: The story of a supervisor who sets up a choir in a school for delinquent boys. The choir perform for the sponsors of the school.
- One Steve Limit: Averted, one of the children is named Clément.
- Parental Abandonment: Morhange due to his difficult behaviour and that his single mother can't make ends meet and has to constantly work.
- Parental Substitute: Mathieu to PépinotViolette: You haven't got any children?Mathieu: No. Well, I have 60.
- Plot-Triggering Death: Morhange's mother dies in the beginning, so he comes back home and Pépinot can give him Mathieu's diary.
- Posthumous Character: Mathieu. Morhange reads his diary after his death and his story is told via Flashbacks.
- Save Our Students: Fond de l'Etang is a school for delinquent boys. Mathieu is a new supervisor. At first, the children do not respect him, but he finally gets the appreciation of all of them, except Mondain. When he has to leave, all write thank you messages. One of the boys, Morhange, will have successful career thanks to him.
- The Remake: Of the 1945 film 'La Cage aux rossignols' ('A Cage of Nightingales').
- Teacher/Parent Romance: Mathieu falls in love with Morhange's mother, which is uncomfortable for Morhange, who throws ink on Mathieu when he speaks with his mother.
- Villainous Breakdown: Rachin at the end of the film, after Mathieu tells Rachin what he thinks of him. He responds the same way, only a lot more childishly and frustrated.
- Wealthy Philanthropist: Fond de l'Etang receives funds from a rich woman. The choir give a concert for her.
- Whole Episode Flashback: Morhange receives Clément Mathieu's diary in the beginning and the bulk of the film consists of the events depicted in this diary, which happened some 50 years ago.