4:35 pm - 11/27/2012

Les Mis Round-Up: Rave Review, French Movie Poster & New Stills

Driving home from the Santa Monica advance screening of Universal's Les Misérables on Saturday for Academy members, I spotted a huge poster for the movie on a building in Westwood which proclaims it is "A musical phenomenon about fight, dream, hope and love." I turned to my companion and said that this is a rare occasion when those words more than match the deed.

Indeed, this movie is the most thrilling film I have seen in many, many years, perhaps ever.

Remember, I have been in the movie business in various ways, mainly producing, for 60 of my 80 years, and have worked with some of its best talents, ie. Billy Wilder. I must have seen several thousand films in my lifetime, and I happen to believe that the British magazine which last month proclaimed Hitchcock's Vertigo the best movie ever, over Citizen Kane, is bonkers.

Neither of them hold a candle to A Place in the Sun, Red River or Godfather I & II. But Les Mis is another kettle of fish altogether. I think that it lifts the movie 'art' to a new dimension of excellence and excitement, which has not been seen before since perhaps Abel Gance's tri-screen Napoleon in the '20s.

3D is exciting and important when handled well (Ang Lee's Life of Pi), but it is a technology more than an artistic achievement. Here, from the moment the screen opens up to reveal a long line of convicts hauling a ship into drydock in early 19th century France, we are caught up in spectacle that is both majestic and intimate. The fact that all the dialogue is sung immediately sets the mood that we are in for something special.

Director Tom Hooper (The King's Speech) joined with several cast members to speak briefly to us before the screening, and he admitted that seeing this sea of faces in front of him has finally convinced him that the film is finished. (He also mentioned that it was two years ago Friday he had opened The King's Speech in New York, and went on to win the Oscar for that.) He related that he had actually wrapped this film at 2 a.m. Thursday (Thanksgiving) evening in time for two screenings in New York on Friday at Lincoln Center arranged by the inimitable Peggy Siegel, and a friend who was there told me that the film was interrupted by applause 14 times and received a standing 10-minute ovation at the end.

He said to me, "This is the 800-pound gorilla in the Oscar race." If I were Daniel Day-Lewis, I would be wondering if my hold on the best male actor statue for Spielberg's Lincoln was as firm as everyone thought. Hugh Jackman here gives a performance for the ages as the indomitable Jean Valjean. I reflected on another statement made by Hooper to our audience; he stated that over 90 percent of the singing was shot 'live' and not prerecorded, many of the songs done in one take! "I didn't want any barriers between emotion and realism and truth, so for me it was very important that the actors playing these characters were producing these songs out of the depths of their souls in that moment." Did they ever!

Oh, my God, what an achievement for all involved. Anne Hathaway, in a somewhat truncated part as the extremely fragile Fantine, breaks your heart when she sings "I Dreamed a Dream," (forget about the Susan Boyle version of this, Anne's is slow, desperate and amazing) as she sings of the daughter she will never see again, and I see a supporting actress statue in her grasp, which is kind of ironic considering the slings and arrows she received for fronting the Oscar show last year. (Yes, I was as guilty as the rest.) In Saturday's Los Angeles Times, she says that her chopped hairdo (locks cut off for sale) makes her look like "her older gay brother."

The picture, which opens in L.A. on December 13, will screen officially for Academy members on December 15, and I predict it will be one of those rare Academy screenings where ordinarily diffident members line up in front of our building an hour or two in advance to assure themselves of seats... It happened recently to Lincoln. I am not going to go into a detailed review... that I leave to my favorites, the New York Times' Manola D. and Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern, and the other professional assassins, but I must recall some special moments since I have been unable to sleep since I saw it, just running the film over and over in my head and perhaps this way I can somewhat dispose of them.

You'll remember from the stage musical, seen by 60 million people in 42 countries in 21 languages, adapted from Victor Hugo's novel, that it depicts the story of prisoner 24601, Jean Valjean, imprisoned for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving family, who when he is released from prison, breaks his parole to create a new life for himself while evading the grip of the relentless Inspector Javert. It reaches its conclusion against the June revolution of 1831. Hathaway plays a working class girl forced to turn to prostitution to pay the evil innkeeper and his wife, the Thenardiers, played hilariously by Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter, to care for her daughter Cosette. (I don't know if it was an inside joke, since Helena always wears dark glasses in real ife, that in one party scene she is also seen wearing them... were they even invented then?) Someone next to me said that when they sang "Master of the House," it reminded him of Sweeney Todd. (Incidentally, can someone explain who was the white-haired man on the steps at the end of the movie?)

Valjean promises to care for the daughter when the mother is on her deathbed, and it leads to complications later when a young revolutionary student, Marius, falls for his ward, Cosette, played by Amanda Seyfried. I had a chance to talk to Amanda and her mother outside the theatre before the screening, and the young-looking, leggy actress confessed to being nervous and terrified at seeing the movie. Not to worry, she was excellent as the innocent ingénue. An actor named Eddie Redmayne played Marius, and he was also there. A stunning British actress named Samantha Barks, also at our screening, almost stole the movie as the wayward Eponine, a girl of the streets also in love with Marius.

She has to cry and sing "On My Own" in the pouring rain, and Hooper said she did it "many, many times." She is the only cast member to have performed in the stage musical. Russell Crowe is a powerful Inspector Javert, and while his singing is not quite a match for the others, his intensity and presence bring a majestic attitude to a role which once remained owned by Charles Laughton in the old black-and-white film of this story. I once met two of the producers, the guys from Working Title, Eric Fellner and Tim Bevin, and remember them as cool, calm and tough customers who eschew the extraneous trappings of the business for the essence of it. (They turned down my pitch for a film about the famous art forger in London, saying they had something similar in development.) Cameron Macintosh was the tireless producer of the musical and is also a producer here. But it is the music, of course, which carries it to spectacular heights, and for that we must be thankful to Claude-Michel Schönberg for the music and original French lyrics by Alain Bonblil and Jean-Marc Natel, with an English libretto by Herbert Kretzman and the screenplay by William Nicholson. (Screenplay? It's all lyrics. Must explore this more.)

Think of the songs which have enthralled you over the years, and then be prepared to be astonished at how they sound when sung by these talented people against the realistic settings of torn-apart France. "I Dreamed a Dream," "Bring Him Home," "One Day More," and "On My Own"... just glorious and moving. I must admit I cried many times throughout the film, and I was not alone. Someone today said there was a poster in the works: The film that makes grown men cry.

I read that it has taken 27 years to bring this version of Les Misérables to the screen. It was worth the wait. It is the cinematic musical experience of a lifetime... and I am thrilled that I finally got to see it on film. (No digital here.) You will be too, trust me.


French Movie Poster

Aaron Tveit as 'Enjolras'

Review Source | Poster Source | Stills Source
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liberateourtime 27th-Nov-2012 09:50 pm (UTC)
dammit i wanted it to be terrible
liberateourtime 27th-Nov-2012 09:50 pm (UTC)
also aaron tveit looks like an alex pettyfer/damian lewis hybrid and it's freaking me out.
polekatz 28th-Nov-2012 03:20 am (UTC)
archangel811 27th-Nov-2012 09:52 pm (UTC)
the posters are kinda sucky though :/
dumpyfledgling 27th-Nov-2012 10:14 pm (UTC)
^^Really? I thought the ones with Amanda Seyfried were pretty but overall they were unoriginal.
megalixer 27th-Nov-2012 11:05 pm (UTC)
Yeah, blue and orange and floating heads :/

I did like the one that they did with bb Cosette that referenced the classic logo, though.
miakun 27th-Nov-2012 11:06 pm (UTC)
seriously someone needs to take away that person's photoshop, they gave young cosette and old cosette vastly different eyes lol
pippopippo 27th-Nov-2012 09:53 pm (UTC)
Soooo excited for this film. I'll be spending Christmas alone this year, so I'll prob go watch Les Mis and cry into my bucket of popcorn.
crazyventures 27th-Nov-2012 09:53 pm (UTC)
I'm so excited for this. Eddie Redmayne!
littlehayzay 27th-Nov-2012 09:55 pm (UTC)
lol i can't with that poster - you can soooo easily tell they used a composite of two anne hathaway pictures cause one of her eyes is trying to escape the other one
reinvent_love17 27th-Nov-2012 09:56 pm (UTC)
kinda meh about russel crowe's voice (from what i heard in the trailer, so it's a little early to judge....but still)

but sooooo excited for aaron tveit and samantha barks because they are amazing
littlehayzay 27th-Nov-2012 09:58 pm (UTC)
lol i went to the cinema with my dad and dead silent, russell crowe starts singing and he laughed SO loudly and then says 'ARE YOU SERIOUS RIGHT NOW?' it was so awkward, i tried to slouch down and hide in my seat lol
mercibeaucul 28th-Nov-2012 12:31 am (UTC)
LMAO, I love your father.

One of my co-workers said that he's refusing to see the film despite wanting to very much fundamentally because he was so offended by Russell Crowe's voice in the trailer. I couldn't help but laugh.
zness 27th-Nov-2012 09:57 pm (UTC)
awww yeah aaron tveit
trixx_r4_kidz 27th-Nov-2012 09:57 pm (UTC)
I am DYING to see this. I hope I win tix to an advance screening (which will probably end up like Black Friday trying to get into ughhhh) cuz I can't wait til xmasssss. Very jealous of all the people who have seen it so far!
reginageorge 27th-Nov-2012 09:58 pm (UTC)
i want it to be bad so anne doesn't get that oscar nom.

i'm so bitter about her being fantine lmao

Edited at 2012-11-27 09:58 pm (UTC)
cuteej4 27th-Nov-2012 10:00 pm (UTC)
Oh she's getting that Oscar nom for sure
fauxkaren 27th-Nov-2012 10:01 pm (UTC)
You'd better start coming to terms with the fact that Anne Hathaslay is going to win all the awards this year.
phallus 27th-Nov-2012 10:01 pm (UTC)
The Oscar's love Anne.
threeatatimejay 27th-Nov-2012 10:03 pm (UTC)
Everyone and their brother said she slayed the role. She is pretty much a lock for a nod and a heavy favorite to win.
Justine Sachs 27th-Nov-2012 10:10 pm (UTC)
Not only will she be nominated if she goes for supporting she should win.
akaich0u 28th-Nov-2012 01:18 am (UTC)
I mean I don't think she'll be bad but it does look like she's overacting so far. And I hate that oftentimes overacting = auto oscar nod.
cuteej4 27th-Nov-2012 09:59 pm (UTC)
GOD. I don't WANT to cry. I don't want to be that person coming out of the theater sniffling with a bunch of used kleenex

he film was interrupted by applause 14 times and received a standing 10-minute ovation at the end.


Edited at 2012-11-27 10:03 pm (UTC)
ronsypooie 27th-Nov-2012 09:59 pm (UTC)
Enjolras is ALWAYS hot. in every stage production i've seen, he's always attractive.

cuteej4 27th-Nov-2012 10:01 pm (UTC)
I wish I had stage doored for the stage production that I saw because EVERYONE was hot
fauxkaren 27th-Nov-2012 10:00 pm (UTC)
phallus 27th-Nov-2012 10:00 pm (UTC)
Why did they cast Russel Crowe when pretty much every top billed star casted had previous training? I don't get it.
cuteej4 27th-Nov-2012 10:01 pm (UTC)
I think he LOOKS the part. He just won't be able to SING the part
blazinguns 27th-Nov-2012 10:03 pm (UTC)
Sounds like trying to create pretty calculated comeback-in-a-role-you-didn't-expect-him-to-see hype to me.
dumpyfledgling 27th-Nov-2012 10:12 pm (UTC)
I don't know if I should go in with high expectations because I love Les Mis or low expectations because of him.
dracopet 27th-Nov-2012 10:20 pm (UTC)
I heard he was good. He does have that band.
megalixer 27th-Nov-2012 10:33 pm (UTC)
I can see where they were coming from - I think he'd be a good fit for Javert if they were adapting the book, he has the right look and can act well when motivated, and his voice isn't terrible given what he usually sings, he's not tone deaf . . . they probably thought that he could do it well enough with some training.

Now ofc everyone should be skeptical, because whenever an actor says "I've never sung on stage before but I took a few months of voice lessons!" the end result is terrible 9/10 times and Javert is a really hard part even for experienced singers.

IMO they already have Hugh and Anne for star power (and I guess Amanda to a lesser extent), they should have just gotten a Broadway/West End alum who's roughly the same age as Hugh.
blazinguns 27th-Nov-2012 10:01 pm (UTC)
I went to see Les Miserables on the West End and fell asleep several times. Kind of embarrasing and most of all, a waste of money. (Not saying the musical itself is, obviously, but my own experience). I can't really stand musicals that are sung all the way through. I'll give this one a miss.
megalixer 27th-Nov-2012 11:10 pm (UTC)
IDK when you saw it, but I went about a month ago (family was visiting and my grandparents had never seen it) and was not that impressed and I loved it when I saw it on Broadway. The orchestra sounded tinny and pared down, the costumes are looking dated, and most of the cast was not that inspiring . . . it's an amazing show when done properly but the West End version when I saw it felt like it had accepted being a tourist attraction and that's never good. Give the movie a shot, it seems like they're trying to breathe some new life into it and it's a powerful story at its core.
arainymist 27th-Nov-2012 10:02 pm (UTC)
Ready for my ginger prince to slay <333
abbiemills 27th-Nov-2012 10:37 pm (UTC)
Me too. My best friend and I are mad in love with him and had a squealing fit the other day over the fact he'll finally be famous in a month and get the recognition that he deserves.
arainymist 28th-Nov-2012 02:24 am (UTC)
I can't wait!
sarafina126 28th-Nov-2012 02:03 am (UTC)
He was not mentioned much in this review, but many sources say he was amazing. <333
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