Les Misérables

Les Misérables (2012) by Tom Hooper

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Finally, Les Mis opened in Germany! Finally, I watched it!

You might think that this has been a livelong dream of mine, that I could think of nothing else while waiting for it to happen, that I was thrilled by the choices of actors – or devastated. But you would be wrong. I knew very little of Les Misßerables before, and I don’t feel that I know a lot more now. Sure, the plot is fairly clear now, some quotes that I may have heard before make sense – but I have never read the novel by Victor Hugo, I haven’t seen a version of the musical before now.

lesmis4And still, when people started talking about it on the blogosphere, I became intrigued and I wanted to see it – even more so when I heard that Helena Bonham Carter would be in it, singing once again as she had already done on Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Anne Hathaway? Can she sing? Russell Crowe? Can HE sing? Hugh Jackman? Awesome, he can sing! The list of cast just got better and better and then I waited, patiently. Until yesterday:

The year is 1815, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) has spent 19 years in prison, five for stealing a loaf of bread, 14 more because he tried to escape. Now he’s on parole and he’s given the chance to better himself. But he can’t do that while still wearing the stigma of a con – so, he makes his former self disappear and builds a new identity. One, that becomes mayor of some city and a respected businessman. At his factory works a young woman by the name of Fantine (Anne Hathaway) who is dismissed by Valjean’s foreman after finding out that she has an illegitimate child.

Fantine takes to the street while Valjean has to face his past in the figure of lesmis2Javert (Russell Crowe) who was a guard at prison and recognizes the man. Valjean finds Fantine and takes her to the hospital where she dies after Valjean promises her to find her daughter, Cosette, and care for her. He does but has to flee with the small girl (Isabelle Allen) because Javert is after him again. Nine years later in Paris, Valjean and Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) live in hiding. Cosette falls in love with a young revolutionist, Marius (Eddie Redmayne) and Javert once again enters their lives. Trying to escape they are caught up in the machinisms of a revolution and everybody has choices to make, debts to pay.

The story isn’t the greatest part of it, and I’m not even sure if it’s Hugo’s doing or simply the script of even the musical version, but there are certainly a few questions that are left unanswered, a little too many coincidences happening. But these probably shouldn’t even be mentioned in the light of a fantastic cast lesmis3giving a breathtaking performance. Yes, they can all sing and they do. And while they’re all really wonderful, it is Anne Hathaway who blows everyone else out of the water. Oscar-worthy performance? Abso-fucking-lutely (pardon my French, and the pun)! There are no words to discribe her intensity. She makes the audience feel lost with her, makes everyone want to reach out and protect her. She is the face that has been ruined, not by her own doing but by others judging her. She should have lived where others died but she doesn’t. She dies and the audience cries for her.

Luckily, they bring Anne Hathaway back for the grand finale because by then you have missed her – not because it had all turned boring and lame by now but simply because she was THAT good.

Whoelse was good? Well, you guessed it: Helena Bonham Carter. It doesn’t really matter what she does, she does it all fabulously. And the weight of not letting the whole show drudge into misery and sorrow lay heavy on her and Sacha Baron Cohen’s shoulders and they pulled it off and making it look effortlessly.

I’m mentioning these two actresses but I should mention everyone involved. lesmis9The cast was fabulous. I think I was most surprised by the role of Javert. It would have been easy to have him being the villain, somebody who doesn’t care. But Javert does care. He really believes that Valjean belongs in prison, that he’s a dangerous man. He also believes in the system, in the law, and that’s exactly why he must fail in the end – because the system fails him. He is confronted with the question of right and wrong and must admit to himself that he has been wrong all along, because he has put himself on the wrong side. I feel, that his is really the most complex of roles, more so than Valjean’s, because Valjean has the opportunity to redeem himself – Javert doesn’t. And Crowe is really great at protraying this.

There’s another interpretation that lends itself to these two characters, of course. It feels a little like a love story between the two men. None of them seems to have any other romantic linkages but one is always following the other, watching for him. Yes, there’s antagonism but there’s also honor and a sense of one coin with two sides. One is Valjean, the other Javert (their names are eerily similar with the prominant Vj/Jv sounds in them). It’s really a kind of symbioses that binds them, they cannot let go, they cannot carry on.

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There is so much in the story, there’s so much in the songs, there are emotions and thoughts. I will watch it again and listen to the soundtrack and maybe even read the novel – hopefully it will all make sense at some point, or at least the things that I found a little lacking in the plot. It was the only thing that lacked anything really, as this was a brilliant movie. Now go see, if you haven’t already.

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Robin Hood – She was no maid!

Robin Hood (2010) by Ridley Scott

Well, I am in Berlin (at the moment) and I promised myself not to go to the movies… and then I did it anyway. Sometimes it’s a little bit shocking how easily I am forgiven when I break a promise to myself – at least those who include watching or not watching movies.

Anywho, I watched Robin Hood, a movie I was not in the least curious about when I first saw the trailer. Then they said “by Ridley Scott, the director of ‘Gladiator'” and I chanted at the screen: “Alien. The director of Alien. Whoever saw Gladiotor? I certainly didn’t…” Well, I guess I am a tiny bit obsessed when it comes to Alien. Especially since a fifth is in the making (without Ripley? Are you guys serious?) Word has it that it will be in 3D although Scott is not convinced by it (neither am I, I might add). Why do it then?

Okay, back to Robin Hood. It is a good movie. Solid. An old story told differently. Enlightening in some ways, demystefying in others – especially when Lady Marianne reveals that she was no maid when she married Loxley – who is not the real Robin Hood…

It’s all very shocking. Eleanor of Aquitaine is still alive (mother of Richard and John and six more) and well and is treating John like the scum he is, mainly. Richard is little better than his brother, searching for lost glory in Jerusalem and getting himself killed on his pillaging way back to England (by a French cook, nonetheless). His crown is sent to England with his guard and their leader: Robert of Loxley. He dies too but before he does he gives his sword to one Robin Longstride and tells him to bring the sword to his father. Robin does and is adopted by the blind Walter of Loxley… seems Lady Marianne (Loxley junior’s wife) is part of the deal – or maybe she falls in love with him (if it pleases Hollywood!). Englishmen get killed because John trusted the wrong man and then the French king sails over to invade… but, alas, Robin of the Hood has finally brought the barons of England under one banner again (for a promise of King John to give everybody more rights) and beats the Frenchmen. Happy ending? Oh, contraire, John breaks his word and is from now on the stupidest King John in Hollywood history – but who cares since Robin and Marianne and their friends have abondoned the windy castle walls and live now in a forest – what was its name again?

I like the new movie although I must confess I am a sucker for the 1938 movie with Errol Flynn (there is a scene where one can see striped boxers through green tights – it’s a classic). Russell Crowe doesn’t wear tights, of course, which is good (I wouldn’t want to see him wearing them, I am sure you wouldn’t either). Lady Marianne is an absolut improvement, too, she is feisty, witty, strong and hot, a true feminist. And Cate gives her more than the literary figure bargained for, I am telling you.

Ridley Scott fortunately makes for great femals characters. I don’t think it is a coincidence that he put Eleanor in his movie (although a Hepburn-fan like me gets a little sentimental seeing her portraid by somebody else even though the job was well done by Eileen Atkins). Even John’s girlfriend turning queen is a strong female character. And then there is Marianne, cocking bows, swinging swords, and mainly being what women in those times should have been but probably weren’t. And she kills the man who is trying to rape her, for a change… (if we keep this up we might never again have to endure another scene that even indicates rape… wouldn’t that be great? it wouldn’t be historically correct but it would still be great!)

I liked the movie. It wasn’t the best ever but the story is new, the characters evolved, the setting stunning, and though I will never again be a fan of Russell Crowe he is capable… and has a great voice (remember: in Germany movies are dubbed and I have never watched one with Crowe in English.)

Battle On!