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Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

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Tuesday
Jan082013

« In Which Almost Nobody Is Dirty At All »

Young and Unafraid

by KARA VANDERBIJL

Les Misérables
dir. Tom Hooper
157 minutes

1. Wait, this didn’t happen during the French Revolution? I thought that was the only element of French history worth talking about!

2.  As voiced by a young man on the way out of the theater with his grandmother, “There was a lot of singing.”

3. It is generally assumed that all Europeans speak with British accents, regardless of their nationality.

4. This is a bizarre sort of artistic colonialism.

5. There are a limited number of British actors. As such, Helena Bonham-Carter appears in almost all films that require a woman with a British accent.


6. This is forgivable, because she really is quite good.

7. Anne Hathaway’s performance of poor Fantine’s “I Dreamed a Dream” was beautiful, and should win her all sorts of prizes. Regardless, I got a kick out of imagining her lip-synching to Susan Boyle’s rendition.

8. At some point or another, most people will claim that they wish they could have been born in a previous era, just to “see what it would have been like”. However, most of these poor saps imagine transporting back to a charmed time where they'd sit in front of a roaring fire in silks eating grilled meat off a bread platter in a well-guarded, well-cleaned castle. Les Misérables reminds us that most of us would have been lucky to have been working-class.


9. Speaking of which, I saw a hashtag on Rich Kids of Instagram the other day that said — I kid you not — “1% for life”. Really? Really? They are actually people walking around in the world vocalizing that kind of nonsense and they’re not being trampled by hordes of angry peasants? 

10. Let’s build some barricades in Beverly Hills!

11. My cousin shared with me before the show that the man who plays the Bishop in this version of Les Misérables, Colm Wilkinson, originated the role of Valjean in the West End and on Broadway.  This trivia made me blubber almost uncontrollably at the end when he welcomes Hugh Jackman into the embrace of heaven, essentially blessing him as the heir of a timeless tradition.

12. Everyone should aspire to welcome Hugh Jackman into the embrace of heaven.

13. Who knew he could sing and didn’t tell me?

14. Let’s play a game where we count how many people on our morning trains will now be reading Les Misérables. I played this last month, but with Anna Karenina. Nobody I saw had ever made it past the first hundred pages. Some of them were frowning. All of them had bought the edition with the movie cover on the front. I predict that by now, most of those editions are now collecting dust on the bottom shelf of a bookcase.


15. There’s an old joke floating around that the Koreans didn’t appreciate how long The Sound of Music was, so they cut out all the songs. I have no idea whether or not it is based on fact or whether it is just a racist jab, which I am more inclined to believe, but if I could perform similar magic on Les Mis I’d cut out all the parts with Russell Crowe, who plays Inspector Javert.

16. Javert should be fearsome and loathsome both. Crowe’s performance allowed us to empathize with the character a bit too much, and I don’t want to understand Javert as much as fear and hate him. Also, his shoulders should be at least as wide as Jackman’s if we are to believe that they are archenemies.

17. Pronouncing the “s” at the end of Misérables is like a person wearing a neon-colored polo shirt who then pops the color of said shirt in that I will forgive neither of them.

18. It was a mystery to me, until viewing the film, why Cosette’s face should be on the poster of every production, stage or cinematic, of this story. Amanda Seyfried’s depiction was precious, although her voice reached ear-splitting heights only before attained by the mice from Cinderella. Cosette is only interesting in that she inspires other characters to greatness. She is a small symbol of the revolution, sort of like a New Year’s resolution.

19. I sat very close to the screen during my viewing. This was not my choice, because I suffer from motion sickness and had to close my eyes during what I felt were key action sequences. I often opened my eyes to a very close shot of Hathaway or Jackman or Redmayne belting out their numbers, which felt very personal, although I never did feel the need to be that intimate with their dental work.

20. This was interesting camera work on Tom Hooper’s part, giving the audience the impression that we were viewing a sort of anachronous musical reality television special, straight from the slums of Paris.


21. Eponine (Samantha Barks) would make a great reality-TV show character. Not only is she the neglected angle of a tense love triangle, but she also dies, saving anyone from having to kick her off the... barricade.

22. Everyone has seen some high-school or college production of this musical; there were so many people crying in the theater at the end that it felt a little bit like my tenth birthday party.

23. Visually, Les Misérables is a smorgasbord. Its birds-eye views of Paris and high-definition details of dirty teeth achieve what the musical will never be able to on stage, which seems a bit unfair. How many people will now say, “Well, Les Mis is in town, but I have it on DVD, so why bother?”

24. You know which one is next, right? Wicked.

25. There was a trailer for an awful-looking movie starring James Franco which had something to do with Oz and it looked so bad that I almost left the theater before the movie even started.

26. There should be a word for forgetting which movie you have paid to see by the time the previews are over.

27. Thanks to this, one might almost be able to forget the 1998 version of Les Misérables starring Liam Neeson in which he falls in love with Fantine and Geoffrey Rush isn't a pirate and almost nobody is dirty at all. 

Kara VanderBijl is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She last wrote in these pages about the scavengers. She tumbls here and twitters here.

"Slow Beginnings" - Alameda (mp3)

"Swollen Light" - Alameda (mp3)

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