It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
This time the teacher is named Clement Mathieu. In earlier films it was Mr. Chips, Miss Jean Brodie, Mr. Holland, Mr. Crocker-Harris (in "The Browning Version"), John Keating (in "Dead Poets Society"), Joe Clark (in "Lean on Me"), Katherine Anne Watson (in "Mona Lisa Smile"), Jaime A. Escalante (in "Stand and Deliver") and Roberta Guaspari (in "Music of the Heart"). In theaters right now, his name is Coach Carter. The actors have included Morgan Freeman, Meryl Streep, Edward James Olmos, Albert Finney, Robin Williams, Samuel L. Jackson, Julia Roberts, Maggie Smith, Richard Dreyfuss and even, in one version of "Chips," Peter O'Toole. They all have two things in common: Their influence will forever change the lives of their students, and we can see that coming from the opening frame.
I have nothing against the formula. Done well, it can be moving, as it was in "Mr. Holland's Opus." But "The Chorus," which just recently received a nomination for best foreign film, does it by the numbers, so efficiently this feels more like a Hollywood wannabe than a French film. Where's the quirkiness, the nuance, the deeper levels?
The movie begins with a middle-aged man named Pierre being awakened from his slumbers by the news of a death. That night he conducts an orchestra, and we learn that he is the World's Greatest Conductor. I would have been better pleased if he had merely been a Really Good Conductor. Then Pierre makes a journey to attend the funeral of his mother, and as he returns home is reminded of the teacher who found him as a juvenile delinquent and instilled a love of music and learning in him.
All of this is quickly known, and more details are easy to come by, because in the town he meets his old classmate Pepinot, who produces the diary kept 50 years ago by Mr. Mathieu. It is the kind of helpful journal that seems to have been written as the treatment for a film.