Friday, January 4, 2013

Le, La, Les... (Miserables, that is)

Books, Movies, Movies, Books

I still have a nervous tic. “Le, la, les…” (twitch), “ conjugate the verb…” (blink, twitch), “Si s’une tableau peinte un mille mots…” (twitch, blink, tic).

But I overcame my fears. We purchased tickets through Fandango. We staved off the militant woman who swore at us for saving a seat for our elderly, disabled mother, and we saw the new release of Les Miserables, starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and Anne Hathaway.

And I don’t care what the critics say, have said, will say, (ont dit, dits, vont dire - twitch), the current release of Les Miserables is INCROIABLE!!! Take your tissues, because you will cry – a testament to the power of live recording of the music. (And despite what some critics have said, Russell Crowe rocked Javert!) I wept. The people around me wept. Grown men on every row were surreptitiously, (and some not so surreptitiously), blotting their eyes.

If you have read the original by Victor Hugo, you might remember a pretty dry read. Trust me, this movie ain’t that. And this is another reason why I love this gig, comparing books to their movie counterparts: in the movie, the directors and writers have the opportunity to perfect the original story. I don’t believe there are many writers who believe their words are so sacred they can not stand with some improvement. You write. You edit. You edit again, but at some point, you have to relinquish your imperfect darlings and send them out into the cold, cruel world. There, they either stand up to scrutiny, or they crumble.

It’s been a while since I read the original. And yes, I had to read it in the original language for a high-school French class. That was brutal. I still suffer from the nervous tic induced by the mere mention of the title. But now, I have some other associations, that may help with my nervous condition. Why didn’t anyone tell me to picture Hugh Jackman in the role of Jean Valjean when I was reading it back in high-school? Oh yeah, maybe because Hugh Jackman was also in high-school. Today, I don’t think, “French Revolution” without the sung accompaniment, “2-4-6-0-1”. (You’re singing it too, aren’t you?)

On a side note, I got another movie for Christmas. I adore this Danish film, KINAMAND, starring Bjorne Henrikson and Vivian Wu. Sadly, unless you keep a copy permanently rented through Netflix, it's not available in the U.S. and foreign DVDs don't play on U.S. players. So that's why the man I love gave me a universal player to go along with my European copy of KINAMAND. Looooove that man.


  1. Wow, Sofie -- great review! I must confess, that wasn't on my watch list before, but it is now!

  2. Excellent review, Sofie! I'm listening to the London Cast recording of LES MISERABLES right now in prep for the movie. I haven't read the book but I loved the musical and I'm hopeful the movie is along the lines of the musical with the added benefits of going back to the book. There are so many songs that I'm certain they had to cut out, but I hope they didn't cut my favs. I loved Master of the House and Bring Him Home just had me sniffling at my desk. As a final aside, I took H.S. French but there is no way I could have read Les Miserables in the original. APPLAUSE!

  3. Ooooh, Denise. You're gonna love the movie then! All the original songs, plus one that was cut from the stage production. (Sung by Jackman in the carriage with Cosette.) AND as an added bonus, if you love the version with Colm Wilkinson you'll be thrilled to see him in a cameo appearance as the Bishop in the film!

    1. And a side note: When Colm Wilkinson created Jean Valjean's character in the original stage production, the legend goes that the director suggested he sing "Bring Him Home" as if angels were guiding him. He sang the song, leaving a stage crew in tears. The director cleared his throat and told him, "I asked that you sing it as if you had the guidance of angels - not as if you WERE an angel yourself." (That's in quotes, but I heavily paraphrased from the legend told to someone who told it to someone....) It's still just lovely - and still makes me cry.