Monday 14 January 2013
Les Miserables 2012
Somehow I've escaped seeing any version of Les Miserables til now. Well, I suppose I've actively avoided it. I have always thought of myself as someone who doesn't like musicals. I think I'm changing my mind about that. Or perhaps it's a bit like a vegetable you say you don't like, but then you haven't really tried it, and when you do actually try it you find you don't mind it, or perhaps even quite like it.
I should have known that I would enjoy Les Miserables, despite the near incessant singing (there is a bare minimum of actual speech throughout the whole movie). After all, I do have rather an enduring passion with all things French, and Parisian in particular. And this is a rather Parisian story. In my ignorance I had thought that it was a story of the French Revolution, but Les Mis is set some 20-40 years after those extraordinary events of 1789. The story first starts in 1815, and the major part of the action takes place in 1832. The Book Haven helps explain the history of the events portrayed in Les Miserables.
At the heart of Les Miserables is an ongoing animosity over years between policeman Javert (Russell Crowe) and former convict Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman). Victor Hugo's powerful story makes us consider the poverty, ill health and poor circumstances that much of the French populace has endured over time, and indeed many people around the world still do.
The movie has some wonderful performances, and spectacular imagery. I'm not a Russell Crowe fan, and found him rather wooden throughout, I hadn't realised that he had such a major role. Anne Hathaway is very good as Fantine, and her plight is particularly moving. Young Daniel Huttlestone is extraordinary as Gavroche. Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter were brilliant in providing some light relief as the innkeepers. I thought Samantha Barks was the standout as their daughter Eponine.
Sadly I haven't read any Victor Hugo as yet. From my limited dabblings with French classics (Madame Bovary, The Three Musketeers) I expect that I will like his writings. When I was last in Paris in 2010 I had a wonderful visit to the Musee Victor Hugo. I'm still planning on taking my copy of Notre Dame de Paris with me to Paris this year, which is a sensible size to try and read on holiday, but now I find myself wanting to read Les Miserables. Yes, the TBR just grew again.