In Les Choristes (The Chorus), the time is 1949, the kids are French, the Dickensian boarding school for troubled boys is in a green countryside, the transformative new teacher is a mild-mannered beta male (Gérard Jugnot), and the movie is rotten the way that only a denatured made-for-export slice of Gallic nostalgia can be. The Nazis may have just been vanquished and France may be in tatters, but in director and co-writer Christophe Barratier’s fantasy, the only lingering reminder of war is that one cute kid is an orphan; almost all the rest are robust, not-so-bad boys whose savage breasts are soothed by the singing of flutey chorales.
And lead angry boy Pierre Morhange (Jean-Baptiste Maunier), described by the school’s villainous principal as having the ”face of an angel,” turns out to have the voice of a lark, too. (The principal is seen trimming his nose hairs, apparently the international symbol for tyranny.) Later, Morhange becomes an orchestra conductor and, famous and white-haired, reads a diary kept by his forgotten old teacher while rain falls softly and we cringe honestly, dismayed by such cinematic tunelessness.