Betsy Speicher

Les Misérables (2012)

Rate this movie    5 votes

  1. 1. Artistic Merit

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  2. 2. Sense of Life or Personal Value

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37 posts in this topic

I have to respectfully disagree with Bill Bucko on this. I have read Les Miserables in translation, but unabridged, and seen several movie versions and the musical in four different productions.

The musical is brilliant. It captures the essence of the characters and the conflicts with such clarity and that I was amazed that had actually been done. The music is melodic, dramatic, and reaches into the souls of the characters. There is Jean Valjean deciding whether to save an innocent man and condemn himself by telling the truth in "Who Am I." Javert proclaiming the orderliness of the universe and the the righteousness of the law in "Stars," and Eponine's declaration of unrequited love in "On My Own."

Les Miserables is not a musical comedy but -- as Hugo's work deserves to be -- a musical epic.

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Couldn't agree more with Betsy.

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Victor Hugo created his characters, his way, in the quiet and solitude of his study. He did NOT create brash, noisy extroverts eager to bellow their lungs out to the balconies.

It’s a difference of style. I don’t expect people to agree with me, since there are more lovers of Broadway than there are lovers of Victor Hugo.

(And yes, I realize there are some who love both -- such as Betsy. But that does not mean that Broadway captures the essence of Hugo. It doesn't.)

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Victor Hugo created his characters, his way, in the quiet and solitude of his study. He did NOT create brash, noisy extroverts eager to bellow their lungs out to the balconies.

It’s a difference of style. I don’t expect people to agree with me, since there are more lovers of Broadway than there are lovers of Victor Hugo.

(And yes, I realize there are some who love both -- such as Betsy. But that does not mean that Broadway captures the essence of Hugo. It doesn't.)

The best judge of that would be Victor Hugo but unfortunately he is dead.

ruveyn

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I've seen the old black & white movie, the stage musical and now this movie. I got a lot out of this version; for me, it really worked. We're certain to buy the DVD when that's available.

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I wonder how Bill feels about opera as an art form since virtually all librettos and scores are based upon previously written words. Goodbye Otello.

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I wonder how Bill feels about opera as an art form since virtually all librettos and scores are based upon previously written words. Goodbye Otello.

Verdi had a small bookcase by his bed. All of Shakespeare's works were kept there. One way we know this is from his correspondence, where he took great offense when, for no reason, someone accused him of not having studied WS. The truth is he knew the works backwards and forwards. (It's incredible how mistreated Verdi was and is. Between that and the bickering over his papers by the major conservatories and universities of Europe, his heirs decided to entrust this timeless treasure with NYU. The result is AIVS, the American Institute for Verdi Studies.)

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Well, I finally got to see the movie I've most anticipated seeing: Les Miserables.

I was gravely disappointed.

Not because it was a bad film, or bad film musical. I gave it a rating of "5" for artistic quality, and "7" for sense-of-life. It was a fairly good film. But I was so gravely disappointed because it was only fairly good. Being an adaptation of Victor Hugo, it should have been great.

There were three or four songs I enjoyed, but I only think about the things I did not like about this movie. For one thing, too much singing. There are scenes that contain action, or a lot of story, and for those scenes I think there should not have been singing--only dialogue when characters are talking to each other. Remember The Sound of Music? or even Oliver!? In the first film, there is no singing when the Von Trapp family is escaping from Salzburg and then from Austria itself. In the second, there is no singing when people and the police are following Bullseye the dog to find Bill Sykes. But in this film, there is singing almost all the time. Half the time I couldn't understand the words, and my hearing is very good. I found it extremely distracting (from the story) and annoying. Let alone the fact that a number of performers in the film don't sing that well. Russell Crowe is the worst one; he sings almost as bad as I do. And I can't stand it when people cry and sing at the same time, like Anne Hathaway as Fantine getting all choked-up while singing "I Dreamed a Dream".

Les Miserables could have been a great film, and a great film musical (with better melodies and at the appropriate times). Sorry, everybody, but even though I have enjoyed a few musicals in the past and expected more from this one, I am feeling a little more of an affinity for Bill Bucko's aversion to seeing this picture than I expected.

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I wonder how Bill feels about opera as an art form since virtually all librettos and scores are based upon previously written words. Goodbye Otello.

I'm not a Verdi fan, but I love Puccini's operas and I admire the way the composer demanded his librettists stretch themselves and keep doing it over till they got it right--coming up with the most dramatic work possible. The brilliant dramatist Victorien Sardou himself, author of the original play "La Tosca," admitted that the opera version was BETTER than his original -- which it clearly is.

But no Puccini has come forward, capable of even doing justice to Victor Hugo (much less improving upon him).

As I said before:

Victor Hugo created his characters, his way, in the quiet and solitude of his study. He did NOT create brash, noisy extroverts eager to bellow their lungs out to the balconies.

Consider my favorite character, Éponine:

A very young girl was standing in the half-open door. The dormer

window of the garret, through which the light fell, was precisely

opposite the door, and illuminated the figure with a wan light.

She was a frail, emaciated, slender creature; there was nothing but a

chemise and a petticoat upon that chilled and shivering nakedness.

Her girdle was a string, her head ribbon a string, her pointed

shoulders emerged from her chemise, a blond and lymphatic pallor,

earth-colored collar-bones, red hands, a half-open and degraded mouth,

missing teeth, dull, bold, base eyes; she had the form of a young

girl who has missed her youth, and the look of a corrupt old woman;

fifty years mingled with fifteen; one of those beings which are both

feeble and horrible, and which cause those to shudder whom they do not

cause to weep.

Marius had risen, and was staring in a sort of stupor at this being,

who was almost like the forms of the shadows which traverse dreams.

The most heart-breaking thing of all was, that this young girl had not

come into the world to be homely. In her early childhood she must

even have been pretty. The grace of her age was still struggling

against the hideous, premature decrepitude of debauchery and poverty.

The remains of beauty were dying away in that face of sixteen,

like the pale sunlight which is extinguished under hideous clouds

at dawn on a winter's day.

That face was not wholly unknown to Marius. He thought he remembered

having seen it somewhere.

"What do you wish, Mademoiselle?" he asked.

The young girl replied in her voice of a drunken convict:--

"Here is a letter for you, Monsieur Marius."

She called Marius by his name; he could not doubt that he was the person

whom she wanted; but who was this girl? How did she know his name?

Without waiting for him to tell her to advance, she entered.

She entered resolutely, staring, with a sort of assurance that made

the heart bleed, at the whole room and the unmade bed. Her feet

were bare. Large holes in her petticoat permitted glimpses of her

long legs and her thin knees. She was shivering.

She held a letter in her hand, which she presented to Marius. ...

Nevertheless, while Marius bent a pained and astonished gaze on her,

the young girl was wandering back and forth in the garret with the

audacity of a spectre. She kicked about, without troubling herself

as to her nakedness. Occasionally her chemise, which was untied

and torn, fell almost to her waist. She moved the chairs about,

she disarranged the toilet articles which stood on the commode,

she handled Marius' clothes, she rummaged about to see what there

was in the corners.

"Hullo!" said she, "you have a mirror!"

And she hummed scraps of vaudevilles, as though she had

been alone, frolicsome refrains which her hoarse and guttural

voice rendered lugubrious.

An indescribable constraint, weariness, and humiliation were

perceptible beneath this hardihood. Effrontery is a disgrace.

Nothing could be more melancholy than to see her sport about

the room, and, so to speak, flit with the movements of a bird

which is frightened by the daylight, or which has broken its wing.

One felt that under other conditions of education and destiny,

the gay and over-free mien of this young girl might have turned out

sweet and charming. Never, even among animals, does the creature

born to be a dove change into an osprey. That is only to be seen

among men.

Marius reflected, and allowed her to have her way.

She approached the table.

"Ah!" said she, "books!"

A flash pierced her glassy eye. She resumed, and her accent

expressed the happiness which she felt in boasting of something,

to which no human creature is insensible:--

"I know how to read, I do!"

She eagerly seized a book which lay open on the table, and read

with tolerable fluency:--

"--General Bauduin received orders to take the chateau of Hougomont

which stands in the middle of the plain of Waterloo, with five

battalions of his brigade."

She paused.

"Ah! Waterloo! I know about that. It was a battle long ago.

My father was there. My father has served in the armies. We are

fine Bonapartists in our house, that we are! Waterloo was against

the English."

She laid down the book, caught up a pen, and exclaimed:--

"And I know how to write, too!"

She dipped her pen in the ink, and turning to Marius:--

"Do you want to see? Look here, I'm going to write a word to show you."

And before he had time to answer, she wrote on a sheet of white paper,

which lay in the middle of the table: "The bobbies are here."

Then throwing down the pen:--

"There are no faults of orthography. You can look. We have received

an education, my sister and I. We have not always been as we are now.

We were not made--"

Here she paused, fixed her dull eyes on Marius, and burst

out laughing, saying, with an intonation which contained

every form of anguish, stifled by every form of cynicism:--

"Bah!" ...

Then she scrutinized Marius, assumed a singular air and said:--

"Do you know, Mr. Marius, that you are a very handsome fellow?"

And at the same moment the same idea occurred to them both,

and made her smile and him blush. She stepped up to him, and laid

her hand on his shoulder: "You pay no heed to me, but I know you,

Mr. Marius. I meet you here on the staircase, and then I often see

you going to a person named Father Mabeuf who lives in the direction

of Austerlitz, sometimes when I have been strolling in that quarter.

It is very becoming to you to have your hair tumbled thus."

She tried to render her voice soft, but only succeeded in making

it very deep. A portion of her words was lost in the transit

from her larynx to her lips, as though on a piano where some notes

are missing.

DARE any of you assert that any of the well-fed, buxom ladies bellowing their lungs out on the stage pretending to be Éponine come within light-years of what Hugo intended?

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I have not seen the movie, but I just recently watched the 25th anniversary concert of the musical version, after hearing people praise it for many years. I did not like it. I think it emphasized the worst aspects of Hugo's novel, the altruism and collectivism,and the conventional love story, and did so at the expense of the best parts of Hugo's novel, the heroism of Valjean, and the value conflict between him and Javert. It was there, yes, but it was drowned in a sea of altruism. Valjean's only purpose in the musical seemed to be to sacrifice himself to whoever needed a sacrifice.

One of the signature songs of the show is "Look Down" - which has no other meaning than "You are your brother's keeper." Enjolras and his men sounded more like the Occupy Wall Street crowd than men fighting for positive values. Our little lives mean nothing, we'll take those rich men down! Most offensive of all was the bouncy, Gilbert and Sullivanesque songs and music given to the Thenardiers, every time they appeared on the stage. The audience gleefully joined in with their debauchery each time, as they are evidently expected to do. The Thenardiers are made into comic relief. In Hugo's novel, they were not comic relief: they were evil.

I also did not hear any really great music. Nothing, in the way of love songs, as beautiful as They Were You from the Fantastiks, or Till There Was You, from The Music Man. Nothing even close to that. To me, it barely rose above recitative anywhere. Nor was there anything as powerfully moving as The Impossible Dream, or as benevolently happy as Oklahoma!

And I haven't even mentioned all the vulgarity they added, that was not in Hugo. It was deliberately adding feet of clay to giants, lest we could not relate to such "unrealistic" characters.

To sum up, I think there was far to much of Marius and Cosette, and the Thenardiers, and far to little of Valjean and Javert.

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I have not seen the movie, but I just recently watched the 25th anniversary concert of the musical version, after hearing people praise it for many years. I did not like it. I think it emphasized the worst aspects of Hugo's novel, the altruism and collectivism,and the conventional love story, and did so at the expense of the best parts of Hugo's novel, the heroism of Valjean, and the value conflict between him and Javert. It was there, yes, but it was drowned in a sea of altruism. Valjean's only purpose in the musical seemed to be to sacrifice himself to whoever needed a sacrifice.

The 25th Anniversary Concert version was horrible. I saw it recently as well as the original version in four different productions, all wonderful. The recent production re-orchestrated the original music replacing melodies with percussion and performed so loudly that you could not hear the performers trying to sing. As a result, the program had scene by scene descriptions of the action as if it were being performed in a foreign language.

Much, much better is the 10th Anniversary Concert performance starring Colm Wilkinson, the definitive Jean Valjean.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMmF9el0S7k

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