Friday, 18 January 2013

Les Miserables (film)

Going to see the stage show of Les Miserables was a family treat a few years ago and I was absolutely blown away by it. The staging alone is fantastic and then when the stirring music, powerful singing and atmospherics are added in, it is simply wonderful. I had vaguely planned to take my partner to see the show as well - an excuse for me to see it again really! - but hadn't got around to it and, now there is a film version, I'm hoping he'll love the film enough to want to see both (unlike Phantom of the Opera where he walked out of the cinema half way through). I do have a couple of concerns: 'starring Russell Crowe' being one and 'by the director of The King's Speech' (Tom Hooper) being the other. Not to say that I disliked The King's Speech, because I did enjoy watching it, but the two films are very different prospects and I do hope this version of Les Miserables hasn't been too much altered for the screen.

Les Miserables was originally a French novel by Victor Hugo, first published in 1862. The stage show also originated in France. Its music was composed by by Claude-Michel Schönberg and the original French lyrics were by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel. An English-language libretto was then written by Herbert Kretzmer and the musical opened to very bad reviews at the Barbican in 1985. Fortunately audiences largely ignored the negative press and the globalisation of Les Miserables is a prime example of word-of-mouth marketing success.

In 1815, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is released on parole after being imprisoned for 19 years for stealing bread. He is sheltered by the Bishop of Digne (Colm Wilkinson) but steals from him during the night. When Valjean is arrested soon after, the Bishop saves him by saying the silver was a gift. As a result of the Bishop's kindness, Valjean breaks his parole and begins a new life as a factory owner, but cruel prison guard Javert (Russell Crowe) vows to track down his former prisoner and return him to gaol. The cast also includes Anne Hathaway as desperate mother, Fantine, Helena Bonham Carter and Saha Baron Cohen as the publicans, the Thenardiers, Eddie Redmayne and Aaron Tveit as idealistic students, and Amanda Seyfried as the Fantine's daughter, Cosette.

Cineworld from 11th Jan.
Curzon from 11th Jan.
Hailsham Pavilion, from 1st Feb.

1 comment:

  1. So, having been snowed off in January, we finally got to see Les Mis last night.

    From the first moment as the camera swoops over dozens of prisoners dragging a huge ship into a dry dock, the film looks stunning. The sets, costumes, hairstyles and make-up are wonderfully detailed and memorable. The care taken really pays off whether for beggars who are only in frame for a moment or in creating Helena Bonham Carter’s fabulous hair. The sound and singing is also good throughout with standout performances from Anne Hathaway, Samantha Barks and Eddie Redmayne. Hugh Jackman is excellent in the pivotal role of Valjean, never faltering for a moment, and I would like to apologise to Russell Crowe who, it turns out, is not the glaring weak link I feared he would be.

    My problem with the film of Les Mis is that my overriding emotion for most of the time was Get On With It! I came away from the stage show exhilarated and inspired, but wasn’t gripped by the same excitement yesterday. Master Of The House did briefly bring refreshment, but Do You hear The People Sing wasn’t the anthem it should have been. As I’ve said, individual aspects were great but the overall effect just didn’t work for me. More pace was certainly needed and I think the direction is at fault. Too many static scenes squander the energy that the actors and orchestra pour out whereas movement and snappy editing could have created a whirlwind.