Saturday, 16 March 2013

"He was no longer Jean Valjean, but No. 24601"

Les Miserables, the movie. That is, the movie of the musical. I don't think I actually knew this was going to be a thing until I was trying to watch a youtube video, an ad came up and I was poised, ready to click "Skip Ad" until I heard a little girl singing the tune of Castle on a Cloud...
I'm quite glad about that, actually. If I'd known there was going to be a Les Mis film before seeing the trailer, quite apart from spoiling the surprise of it, I would've been rather worried about the potential for it to be terrible. As it was, the trailer just got me really excited about it. Two weeks ago (I need to be better at doing things in a timely fashion), I saw it in the cinema, and of course I have opinions to express.

Background for anyone who does not know this about me: Les Mis is hand down my favourite musical ever. I absolutely love it, and I'm quite particular about it - I will listen to the original London cast recording and go "He's singing that wrong." I'm pretty happy with the 10th anniversary concert version (It is my version of choice to listen to, as I am doing right now while writing this blog post), though there are still bits of it I might like to be a bit different. I went to see the show in the theatre, in London, twice - once in 2005 (Twentieth anniversary cast!) and then again two years later.
It's a pretty big deal to me.
I've also read the book - only once all the way through, but I dip back into bits of it as and when they come to mind for whatever reason; which they do, because I have a good memory for this sort of stuff. I love the book as well, and having read it I was fairly amazed at how well the adaptation into a musical worked. It's a neat point that a lot can be conveyed with music which on the page requires more explanation. Of course, also a lot of the detail in the book is a bit superfluous and can be removed without leaving significant questions as to the nature of the characters. On the other hand, some details I found utterly delightful, though I could still understand how they couldn't really be included in a musical version.

So, that aside, let's get into talking about the film.

For starters, an important point which I heard about before seeing the film was that the director got the actors to sing the songs live, rather than lip-syncing to studio recordings, so their acting came through in the singing. This obviously had a fairly significant impact on some of the performances, and the film as a whole.
In principle, it's something I agree with - it's the counter to a massive problem I have with most recordings of G&S I've heard: that is, the singers sing the songs as if they're purely music, with no heed paid to the words or the emotions behind them. Songs in musicals and operas should acted as well as sung.
In practice, I feel it had mixed success. There were certainly some points where I loved the more acted, less sung bits of performances as they really conveyed the emotions, and did so without detracting from the music. It wouldn't necessarily work so well in a stage production where of course they wouldn't be able to do all the great camera work, close-ups of actors' faces while they emote, impressive shots, sets, etc. But in film it worked well. The flip-side is that I feel some of the actors only thought of that as the one option of acting expressed through singing; missing that singing the notes properly, with varying dynamics and so on, can express different things better.
The other point is a criticism I've seen - that some of the actors perhaps didn't act as well as they otherwise might because, presumably because they were focused on the singing. If this were a point which was noticed at all, I certainly think there could be a case to be made for getting those actors, at some points at least, to pre-record their songs. To keep with the basic idea, said pre-recordings could still be done live, just do some takes of scenes with singing and copy the audio from them over to ones without if that would get better overall performances (Personally, I wouldn't think lip-syncing would require that much less focus than the actual singing, but I'm used to singing).
The general negative points I noted on the singing were that perhaps a few sustained notes were not sustained as they should have been, and some things weren't sung with as much power as they should have been - this relates to my point above about how singing properly can feed into different elements of acting. Given the weighty subjects they're singing about, fighting revolutions and so on, emotions running high, something as simple as belting out a note at full volume and holding it on for the full duration (Not even particularly long notes as I recall) can really express the characters' passion. If they're weaker, and cut short, then that feels a little bit lacking (Though it was still good, and it should be noted that I can't remember the film in enough detail to pick out specific instances of where I noticed this).


Oh, the other thing I noticed with regards to the singing is that the music had some very flexible timings. Allowing the actors, essentially, to put in dramatic pauses as seemed appropriate. With the amount it happened, it seemed a little odd from a musical point of view, but again, in principle I liked it, because the whole point was making the music serve the telling of the story, as it should.


So, the performances. I'm not sure what order I'm going to do these in, just as they occur to me. So let's just say to start us off, that Colm Wilkinson as the Bishop of Digne was just the best. That was casting I loved when I heard about it in advance, and it worked perfectly in the film. For those who don't know, Colm Wilkinson was the original Jean Valjean, still pretty widely regarded as 'the' Jean Valjean. And to have him as the Bishop is perfect, because essentially Valjean's character arc is that he spends the time-span of most of the show trying to be as good a man as the Bishop who showed him kindness and redeemed him all those years ago.

In one respect I'm still undecided as to how I feel about Aaron Tveit and Eddie Redmayne as Enjolras and Marius - that being their appearance. In an early group scene of all the students, I couldn't tell which ones were Marius and Enjolras until they started singing. On the one hand, they shouldn't really look so different to the others, but on the other hand, generally one does want the significant characters to stand out even before you know who they are. So, as I say, I'm undecided.
A further point on Tveit's appearance is that he wasn't like a typical stage Enjolras, but it still worked. To take a brief tangent - comparisons can easily be made between Les Miserables and Terry Pratchett's Night Watch, in which the Enjolras equivalent is the idealistic revolutionary Reg Shoe. He has the same sort of fervour, but less the practical ability. Aaron Tveit's Enjolras, to me, underlines this comparison - at first glance, he gives the impression more of the visionary than of the fighter, though he demonstrates his fighting ability later on. This brings me back to my original point about him and Redmayne - they may not immediately look like a dashing revolutionary and a romantic lead, but they act out the parts excellently. And so rather than appearing to be these things, they are instead just ordinary people who did these things, which I imagine was the idea.

Continuing on Redmayne, we must also come to Amanda Seyfried as Cosette. Now, at least among people I know, and I think others feel similarly, there is a bit of an issue with the love story in Les Mis - that being that no-one really cares about Cosette, whereas everyone loves Eponine. That's pretty difficult to overcome, but I did like Seyfried's Cosette. Not enough to avoid the question of why Marius chooses her over Eponine, but we mustn't expect miracles here (:P). In contrast to Redmayne not immediately looking like a romantic lead, the way she was made up and costumed did fit well enough to a character who provokes a 'love at first sight' reaction. Now, as I recall, I was a little uncertain about Redmayne's singing at some points (Not sure exactly when - this is why I should get these blog posts written faster). I think I possibly thought he was a little nasal? Not sure exactly what it was. He was still good though, and Seyfried was suitably sweet and so on for Cosette. Acting-wise they were both at their best in their love story, which is obviously good. I have a distinct memory of Marius' section of In my life, with him excitably running around, swinging on lampposts and generally giving a very good portrayal of giddy first love (I also got the concomitant music stuck in my head, which was a bit annoying since it's not that long a section, but never mind).
Which, by a point I mentioned at the start of that paragraph I suppose brings us to Samantha Barks as Eponine. Now, along with Les Mis being my favourite musical, Eponine is one of my favourite characters in it. I was happy. Not a lot more to say really. Of course, she's played the role on the stage, so obviously her singing was going to be top-notch, and the only real question was how she'd adjust to film acting as opposed to theatre. I think she was pretty amazing.

Actually, on that point, possibly my favourite performances, the ones I don't think I had any real criticisms for, were 2/3 made up of the Thenardier family. I've already mentioned Eponine. Fun-but-pointless-fact: Gavroche is Thenardier's son. I thought he was great. Indomitability of the human spirit expressed as an archetypal street urchin, yup. Nice job Daniel Huttlestone.
And of course, the Thenardiers themselves. Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham-Carter. Given the performances of the classic stage Thenardiers I've listened to, they had some pretty big shoes to fill, but I'd say they did it well. Of course, the Thenardiers are interesting characters in that they're both the most significant villains in the show (Javert being an antagonist but not a villain), and also the comic relief. I've seen a couple of people complain that they were too comic, without enough of the dark elements - I kind of felt a little of the reverse: The way they went about their criminality made them seem like entirely despicable characters, where sometimes their dissolute nature can make them appear wretched and pitiable. In the film, it seemed to me that any appearance of wretchedness, anything which might prompt pity, or indeed laughter (them being the comic relief, after all), seemed as if it was deliberately crafetd by them in-universe to let them con people out of more money. All an act. Just like Baron Cohen's shifting accent, clearly picked to get the best reaction out of whoever he was swindling at the time. Actually, when he started singing Master of the House in an affected French accent, he reinded me somewhat of Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast,  which works for me - if you want to pretend to be an excellent host, you could do a lot worse than imitating he that sings Be our Guest.
One final further point - I've never seen anything else Sacha Baron Cohen has done. I've heard about them and seen occasional short clips, all of which led me to the belief I would find them really annoying. That was the attitude I had in anticipation of his Thenardier. Consider my praise of him in that light.

Now, as I said, the Thenardier family make up 2/3 of the performances I really liked and could think of no real criticisms for. The two who made up the remaining third were Colm Wilkinson of course, as already mentioned, and Anne Hathaway as Fantine. Looking at the wikipedia article for the film, it appears she won a considerable number of Best Supporting Actress awards for her performance, and I can see why. Of course, some of it is down to the nature of the direction - things I've already mentioned, sometimes sacrificing a little musicality for a load of acting expression, camera work, the magic of cinema allowing them to portray a hallucination, but in the end what they mostly did was point a camera at Anne Hathaway and play some music to accompany her as she broke the audience's hearts.
A significant element in my experience of watching this film was holding back tears, and that really began with I Dreamed a Dream. Anne Hathaway was amazing.

OK. I guess it's time for me to address the big one. The musical gap with which it seems everyone has taken issue. The terrible under-use of Grantaire. I mean, seriously, he was great!  He should've had more! Same kind of goes for the other students, but especially Grantaire. I suppose really this belongs more in my discussion of the adaptation because it's down to cuts, but I had to mention here that he was great.

OK, the actual big one is that it seems everyone and their mother has said Russell Crowe was terrible as Javert. Personally? I certainly don't think he was as bad as soem said he was. Independently of others' opinions, in fact, I would say that he was not amazing, but he was at least good enough for the majority of the film, with only two points where I really felt he was a bit lacking.
Unfortunately, those two points were two of Javert's three really big moments in the show. So, er, yeah.
The Confrontation was good. I liked that. Stars and his last song which I won't name at this point because I'm saving the spoilers for the next big section of this post... not so much.
Getting back to more general, his voice sounded good enough to me, but he lacked variation, expression, and power. His singing was consistent, and for most of the show, Javert doesn't need to be that expressive. He's supposed to be implacable, pretty much an embodiment of absolute Law, the face he presents to the public is that of dedication, reliability, tenacity, other such things... not emotion. Those two songs where I felt he was lacking are the exceptions. Where the mask is removed. In Stars we see his fervour, and zeal, and in his last song his inner conflicts at that point of the show, his first doubts of his life. This requires more expression and more dynamic variation, particularly towards the end of louder, which just wasn't there. I don't know if this was a problem he had with the singing, or if he was capable of doing it how I would consider right, but didn't - it wouldn't be the first time a film adaptation of a book has had a main character deliver something in the wrong way because they missed (And no-one else told them) that that particular point is an instance of the character acting out of character compared to the rest of the story.
Regardless of the reasons, those two songs were not as good as the rest and I was disappointed by them, but I was OK with his performance otherwise.

And lastly, of course, Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean. Just in passing, a point about his appearance -
of course in a film they can have a bigger change from imprisoned Valjean to wealthy Valjean, and that impressed me, but in the transition from Valjean to older Valjean (Skipping over Cosette's childhood), he really didn't appear to have aged. I think there might have been some grey in his hair, but I'm not sure even though I was looking for it, so it wasn't very noticeable ifit was there. Minor point, but it bothered me a little.
Now, the important stuff. Singing and acting. There were some points where he sounded odd to me. Bit of an accent coming through possibly? Or just the fact he wasn't doing it quite as Colm Wilkinson does it... There was definitely one instance where I was annoyed he didn't hold on a note long enough, only to discover the way he sang it is how it's written in the score, and it's just that Colm Wilkinson holds it on for longer and I'm used to that. I still think it would've been better if Jackman had held it on, but I find it harder to criticise him for it now.
I mentioned further up that there may have been a bit of a general issue with the singing sometimes lacking power. I don't think Jackman had this issue. In fact, at points he had the opposite problem. Most notably, in Bring him Home he really needed to be quieter. Subtler. The fact he couldn't turn the volume down a bit meant some of the intimacy of the scene was lost. He avoided this issue in the finale, fortunately, by the fact that acting a character who's terminally ill inevitably leads to weaker (and therefore quieter, if less musically precise) singing.
My other specific issue was with the end of the prologue. I think this was a point where I felt he was going too far with acting rather than singing, discarding some notes for expression he would've portrayed better with them. And again, I think there was a bit of lack in dynamic variation - singing quietly was a bit of a problem for him I guess? And actually at the end I think I thought he could've been louder for once.
In general, I thought he was good. He looked the part, he sounded good for the most part, he inhabited the role very well. The fact I'm picking out specific moments which I felt were problems rather than anything more general may be partly an indication of my memory having lapsed a bit in the two week gap between seeing the film and writing this, but I think it's more that these were the criticisms I have - that I'm nitpicking details (Some of them, admittedly, rather important details) shows that I thought the film in general was very good, but ever in such things I must aspire to perfection. Just as Jean Valjean is not content with being merely a good man, but must aspire to be as the best man he has known, so I am not wholly content with Les Miserables being merely an amazing film, but must wish it could have been as good as I could imagine it.
A fairly good note on which to head into my thoughts on the adaptation.


So, one of the reasons I didn't get this blog post done in a more timely fashion is that when I was originally going to write it, two days after seeing the film, I instead ended up just listening to the 10th anniversary concert and noting down every bit I noticed which was in that but wasn't in the film. Now, I'm not going to recount the entire list, but I will refer to it and talk about the omissions I feel were more significant. The ones which bothered me, and made me hope there's an extended version of the film with those sections in that'll be on the DVD.

Now, the first point to note about the film is that while it is a film of the musical, it's an adaptation of the musical and the book. Obviously the musical is already an adaptation of the book, but they included a few additional bits of the book in the film, which was interesting. In some cases it worked, in some I think it didn't. In some I think it worked, but could have been done a bit better. The issue, of course, is time and music constraints. They obviously couldn't make the film too long, and they were mostly sticking to the original music, making additional plot elements difficult to accommodate. Having Gavroche emerge from a big model elephant at the start of the Beggars' Song - that's a passing nod to something from the book that doesn't consume time. It made me grin, people who haven't read the book would think nothing of it, it doesn't change anything. On the other hand, including Marius' grandfather doesn't really work, because he's entirely tangential to the main plot, and they didn't have the time to really do anything with him as a character.

Now. SPOILER ALERT. Up to this point I've mentioned titbits of the events of the musical and the book, but nothing too significant. Now I'm going to talk properly about how they changed things in adapting the combination of a book and a stage musical into a film musical, which involves discussing the events of the plot in some detail. If this bothers you, you have my recommendation of the film. It's good, you should see it if this is your sort of thing. A love story and a revolution, set across the path of a man basically good, turned bad by circumstances before being redeemed and setting forth to be as good as he can be, but still with a past he cannot escape. Watch the film, go see the stage musical, watch/listen to the 10th anniversary concert, read the book, whatever combination of any of those you feel like, and then come back and read this next section.
If you already know the plot of Les Mis, or don't mind having it spoiled for you, read on at your leisure.

OK, so they inserted a bit into the opening number of Valjean retrieving a flag. Obvious purpose, it demonstrates his strength allowing them a proper callback when he lifts the cart in Montreuil-sur-Mer to make Javert's recognition more obvious. A bit of a word-change on the yellow ticket of leave, not really an issue. Oh, the setting of the opening in a shipyard - I don't recall if that's a thing in the book. Certainly the second time he's jailed (which didn't make it into the musical or the film) he was working on a ship IIRC, so it might have been a nod to that. It worked well enough in any case.
Let's see, the section of him being turned away from inns and places of work was put into spoken dialogue and a bit of a montage instead of singing, it kind of works better that way, at least for a film.
Valjean didn't sing his bit about taking the Bishop's silver. I feel here like they could have gone two possible ways, and they went for a middle ground which didn't entirely work for me - it's my opinion they should either have done it with the singing, going into the scream as he runs away as it's generally done, or they should've done it without, but entirely as in the book, including Valjean hesitating over contemplating murdering the Bishop and stopping at the beatific appearance he has in his sleep.
The guards didn't sing having arrested him. I feel it's better if they do, particularly since they did have the Bishop sing his bit which comes at the end of theirs.

Let's see, some changes of sequence in Montreuil-sur-Mer. As Fantine is being dismissed, Valjean is meeting Javert - a scene more or less out of the book which worked well, and then this is immediately followed by the cart, but Javert does not state his suspicion outright because they've put in another book scene later.
Lovely Ladies precedes I Dreamed a Dream, so the latter is actually sung when Fantine is at her lowest low. It works well, in my opinion, because the song expresses her despair when we've already seen it. Perhaps it wouldn't work in a stage production, because it would have to be interrupting the ongoing scene for the introspective solo, but I'm not entirely sure.
Bamatabois didn't get his first bit approaching Fantine, and she didn't get to call him a rat. I was disappointed by these omissions. Bamatabois is a great character to hate in the midst of Fantine's descent, particularly since he's actually responsible for her death - I liked that they included the detail from the book of him putting snow in her dress, thus causing the illness which kills her, rather than her just dying of generic having-been-living-on-the-street-ness, but I felt he came to it too quickly, and including a bit more of his singing would've shown the buildup of his anger to that point. And I like Fantine having that last little defiant moment of calling him a rat, much more than the bit they did include of her begging him not to report her.
Now, Javert's offense against Valjean, accusing him of being himself only to be told by the prefecture that Jean Valjean has been caught and is on trial. Did he attempt to resign in the film? I don't remember. Regardless, while I like the inclusion of this scene, they didn't do it its full justice. Javert mentions that he has been just as hard on offenders he has dealt with, which is good, but still not enough. The thing is, in this scene in the book, Javert explains his offense, and does not attempt to resign, but instead demands he be dismissed from his position, dishonourably, as a fitting punishment. The only way he can reconcile his own harshness on criminals is by insisting on similar treatment for himself. And when Valjean refuses to dismiss him, he says he will continue his duties until a suitable replacement is found. He is as persistent and tenacious in attempting to persecute himself at this point as he is in attempting to persecute Valjean throughout. So yeah, this being a big character moment for Javert, I really like it being there, but feel it wasn't done enough.
Though I can't remember for certain, I think they cut out a bit of Who Am I? Which I don't agree with. Also, the end of it seemed lower than I expected. Did they transpose it down for Jackman's sake? Obviously I wasn't going to get out my pitch-pipes mid-film to check, and I suppose if they did it's understandable, but a little disappointing to me as a lover of high notes. I also think they cut out a verse of Come to Me, which again I disagree with, especially because that whole scene was amazing. As I alluded to in passing when talking about Anne Hathaway, she just broke audience's hearts. Again, since of course she'd already broken them with I Dreamed a Dream. Having a hallucinatory Cosette worked well also.
They cut out Valjean's last few lines in the Confrontation because they had Javert put him at mercy at that point. Story-wise, I have no issue with it (Even though it contradicts both book and musical, where Valjean disarms Javert and knocks him out), but music-wise I don't see why they couldn't have had that happen after the singing ended and kept the full thing. Having Valjean just escape immediately at the end was reasonable enough.

I liked the big montage for Master of the House, apart from the random appearance of a Santa (Which I'm pretty sure is an anachronism, quite apart from just being a bit weird). Obviously a film can better illustrate the despicable practices Thenardier is singing about.

Extra song en route to Paris: Suddenly. Worked well enough. I wouldn't say I like it as much as the rest of the musical, but it worked, and in fact I may like it more once I know it better. And then Valjean and Cosette fleeing Javert through the streets before escaping into the convent. Given that the timeline of the film was somewhat truncated compared to that of the book, it seems like Fauchelevent has gotten and settled into his fancy new job rather quickly, but I certainly don't mind this scene being in - shows a bit more of Javert's tenacity in his pursuit of Valjean if nothing else. Which is pretty relevant shortly before Stars, unfortunately as I've already mentioned, Russell Crowe didn't do the best job with that song. A shame, because I liked the way it was shot with Javert on the rooftop, particularly since they then called back to it at his suicide.
Paris! Arguing old woman and prostitute taken out, more emphasis on Gavroche and the students, no bad thing in my opinion. they're more to the point. As previously mentioned, Marius' grandfather serves no purpose in the story so they probably shouldn't have thrown him in for the about four lines they gave him in the film.
The whole scene in the cafe, they cut out the bits of Enjolras organising everyone - "At Notre-Dame the sections are prepared!" - and so on, to my great disappointment as it deprives us of the excellent line "Grantaire, put that bottle down!" I suppose it's not crucial, though seeing Enjolras as a leader at that point is neat, and it could make the scene flow on better maybe?
Now, here's a change. They moved Do You Hear the People Sing? Reasoning makes sense, and actually in some ways it makes more sense this way, since Enjolras has just said that they'll rally the people on the day of Lamarque's funeral, and DYHtPS? is the song of them rallying the people.
They cut out a lot of Thenardier's attempt to rob Valjean at the Rue Plumet which I would've liked to see in, primarily for the argument between Eponine and her father, since that's a bit significant for her, plus it just means there's a bit more to the scene in general.
And they put On my Own in at this point. Again, it works, since we've just had the romantic interaction between Marius and Cosette, obviously emphasising Eponine's loneliness. Actually, this song I didn't feel got the emotions across as well as it might. That said, I'm comparing it to the version from the stage production I saw in the 20th anniversary year, which had me in so many tears I felt I had none left for A Little Fall of Rain, so maybe I'm just judging it by too high a standard.
One Day More. This is a song which obviously works perfectly in a film, because you can properly show that all the different groups are in different places while they sing it.

And this is the point where in the theatre there would have been an interval. Obviously there wasn't an interval, but I do believe the music stopped for a little bit, which is as close as I'd have expected, and how I feel it should be. One Day More is the big finale of the first act, you can't just have it flow straight into something else, something lesser. You need that little break to come down from the climax before you start building to the next one. And here is Lamarque's funeral, an obvious occasion for quiet. But then, as the procession passes... do you hear the people sing? I loved the setting for this song.
The barricade wasn't as impressive as I would have liked, and the building of it focused too much on bits of furniture being thrown out of windows (Including a piano IIRC, which always makes me cringe at such musical vandalism) and not enough on it being piled up to form a barricade. A minor point which I found odd - when Javert is giving his false intelligence to the revolutionaries, he sang "They intend to starve you out," instead of "starve us out," which I found odd. Disassociating himself from them seems odd when he's trying to maintain his cover.
The first attack. They included the point from the book of Marius basically saving the barricade with some dashing heroics and complete disregard for his own safety. And along with that, Eponine being shot saving him. And then her death, which is one of my favourite tearjerker moments in both the musical and the book. I was curious to see if they'd try and mix in some of the book version, but they didn't. I can't really think of how they could without messing with the song, which shouldn't really be done, however  much I may love the last thing she says, "You know, Monsieur Marius, I think I was a little bit in love with you."
They cut out the singing from the immediate aftermath of her death. I don't approve. It allows time for it to sink in, which is important since she is, of course, the first death on the barricade.
Next really notable cut was from Drink With Me. I'm also annoyed by that. Grantaire needs his time to shine and that's it. Plus, the camaradarie on the barricade is an important thing to show. I've already commented on Bring Him Home so I will not do so again. I have an issue with the death of Gavroche, however - he didn't actually do what he was supposed to. At no point did I see him actually pass the gunpowder he was retrieving up to the men on the barricade. Obviously his death is somewhat stupid and futile anyway, since the barricade still falls immediately afterwards, but his childish heroism was diminished significantly by the absence of just one or two shots of him tossing the packs he was taking up and back over the barricade. And now, we come to the one little moment they did give to Grantaire - being the most distraught over Gavroche's death. It was nice, but I'd rather he had Drink With Me in full. In fact, my preferred option would've involved him having that, one of the other students (possibly Marius?) being the one so distraught over Gavroche, and Grantaire having a slight chage in his final moment.
The retreat into the cafe, then upstairs, eventually leaving only Enjolras, unscathed but the last man standing - that's straight out of the book. And he is then more or les executed, Grantaire at his side, in this case honouring the stage tradition by hanging by his legs out the window rather than off the barricade. I'm glad they put that in from the book, but I would've liked to have had the exact nature of Grantaire's final stand by his friend in. Background, in the book, Grantaire is not so much a revolutionary, he mostly just wants to enjoy his life getting drunk and so on, but he acts as a revolutionary because he believes in Enjolras. To my recollection of how it's described, he's pretty much in love with Enjolras. And in the scene equivalent to Drink With Me, he ends up falling into a drunken stupor, from which he only awakes just before Enjolras is shot, and in time to spring to his side. They had the springing to Enjolras' side, but not the drunken stupor or any other notable interactions between the two, which I would've liked (I suppose this is another reason why I would've liked them to have included the "Grantaire, put that bottle down!" line).

Dog Eat Dog was cut entirely. I would've liked to have it in, but cutting it is understandable. I don't know why they cut the couple of lines of singing which should have happened while Valjean was carrying the unconscious Marius past Javert. Can't have been a time thing, since the time was still taken, and I feel the scene is better with those lines.
Javert's Suicide was cut down a bit, I think? Again, I don't approve. Regardless of the fact I wasn't so satisfied with Russell Crowe's rendition of that song, the full version should have been in.
Oh, I've passed over a little moment they inserted - Javert pinning his medal to Gavroche's chest. Some see this as terrible, a disgrace to the character of Javert, etc. Myself, I might side with the people who say it would've been better for Javert to simply close Gavroche's eyes rather than relinquishing his own medal to the boy - that does seem a bit far - but I appreciate the idea of the scene. It fits with the doubts beginning to enter Javert's mind. On those grounds, perhaps a little bit more could even have been made of it.

Having Turning sung over the short sequence of Marius being carried around the hospital worked nicely - I don't feel it would work so well in a film version to put in an extra scene just for that song, but they got in a bit of it in a fitting manner.
To my recollection, in stage productions during Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, the dead revolutionaries appear behind Marius while he's singing. I was disappointed they didn't do something with that in the film, particularly given how well they did Fantine hallucinating Cosette in Come to Me. Show me some ghosts! I want to see those phantom faces at the window.
And we come to the wedding. I would've liked more of Thenardier's singing in this section to have been included, such as the bit where he sings "We can prove... your bride's father is not what you think" rather than him just going straight into it. And then Beggar at the Feast should have been in in full in my opinion. I actually liked the Thenardiers being carried out while singing, but I think it would have worked better if they'd started singing first and picked up part-way through and just kept going as they did. Oh, and I feel they should have been definitely set down outside in time to deliver the last line "And when we're rich as Croesus, Jesus, won't we see you all in Hell!" directly back into the high class wedding party they've just been thrown out of.

And the finale. Well. Of course film is good for ghosts. And much as I love Eponine, removing her in favour of the Bishop makes so much sense. The fact it was Colm Wilkinson just adds to the effect. It makes sense, it fits with the book, it was just perfect. And the little kind of heaven scene they then walked into for the end worked very nicely fitting in with what's being sung at that point.


...is this my longest blog post to date? You betcha. I'm not in the least bit surprised.
I love Les Miserables. I love the musical, I love the book, I love this film.
Now if you'll excuse me I have to go sing to myself for a while.

2 comments:

  1. Anna here, internet's being weird about signing in and it's doing it in Korean, so meh.

    I totally agree with like 99% of what you've said here! I do wish that they'd put in more of Turning, because I think it's amazing, but I see your point about an extra scene not working on film. I'm sure they could have done at least a verse though... Two lines just got my hopes up. Though thinking about it, possibly the saddest moment in the whole film for me was the townspeople closing their doors and shutters rather than come out to support to the revolutionaries, so maybe it would have taken away from that or seemed awkwardly hypocritical for the women to sing a whole lament... Thoughts, thoughts. I see why your post was so long now :P

    I was thinking about Night Watch all the way through the film! Much more so than with the musical normally. And it made it all the more heartbreaking. I liked that they put in Gavrocvhe singing some of the history (night watch esque with the idea that revolutions don't really change anything, iirc)

    Speaking of Gavroche, what did you think of him singing the harmony in drink with me (which yes, there should have been more of)? It was one of the few big musical changes I noticed, as every time I've see it they've obviously wanted to have the female cast involved, as you do in a stage show, so they sing the harmony. I really liked it, and the actor certainly impressed me there. Totally agree about the lack of actual point to his death - I reallyreally hate futility, it makes me all twistyangry instead of sad, and they could so easily have made him the hero he was trying to be. It was like a silly continuity error, where in their heads he'd done it but they forgot to actually show it.

    I can't remember exactly what was left in and what wasn't in the "Same with a tart as it is with a grocer" bit, but I have a feeling all my favourite lines were cut and it made me sad. I did like that the guy sang "I was lost here in the dark" not "I was crossing from the park". In most of the stage versions I've seen that would make a lot more sense.

    What did you think about some of the other line changes? In particular where they'd switched around lines so they no longer rhymed? Annoyingly I no longer remember any examples, but I remember it had me glaring at the screen in a few bits. It was a change that I could not think of a single possible motivation for.

    What a pointlessly long comment just to say I agree with you! Then again, my longest conversation today was with a fourteen year old whose English is at about the level of a five year old native speaker, so I might be a leetle bit starved for human interaction in whatever form.

    Congrats on Princess Ida, sounds like it was a roaring success.

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    1. Somehow the first time I read that comment I missed the part where you said who you were and just figured it out from what you said.
      You do recall correctly that Night Watch had the point about revolutions not changing anything, specifically saying they just go round in circles, and that's why they're called revolutions - which I guess is also the point of Turning, a comparison which only recently occurred to me.

      I'd forgotten Gavroche sang the harmony in Drink With Me, but he's the logical person to do it if the women aren't there, so fine.

      As I recall, I'm pretty sure they just skipped straight from "You've got some nerve you little whore, you've got some gall," to Fantine attacking him and then him threatening to report her etc.

      I... also don't remember any examples, but I think I do remember noting that a few times in the film. I think like everything else, it was some and some. Some made a bit of sense to me, others just seemed annoying and pointless.
      Other line changes, the only two I remember are the yellow ticket of leave at the start, which I feel works either way, and that I've no idea why they changed "The winter is coming on fast, ready to kill," to "The *plague* is coming on fast," etc.

      Thanks!

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