Sunday, January 06, 2013

less miserable than other films

"An adventure is, by its nature, a thing that comes to us.  It is a thing that chooses us, not a thing that we choose."

So wrote G. K. Chesterton.  And, by my reckoning, he was half right.

Adventures choose us.  But unless we accept the adventure, it is merely an opportunity lost. 

This was an adventure weekend.  Well, a weekend of watching movies about adventure.

The first was The Hobbit.  (Reviewed earlier in dwarfs and a dragon.)

This time I saw it at a Cinteopia theater with its superb visual and audio quality.  And I enjoyed the film as much as I did before.  Even though I could have done without the 3-D treatment.

The second film was Les Misérables -- the film version of the 1985 musical.

I was prepared to be disappointed.  The musical is a rather overblown melodrama of Victor Hugo's novel.  The novel centers around the very personal adventure of redemption that came to the criminal Jean Valjean through the grace of a bishop. 

A story powerful enough that Whittaker Chambers believed it would make a reader either a Communist or a Christian.  It made him both.

But the film works.  It takes advantage of the personal nature of the camera and resurrects Hugo's human perspective from the novel.

The director made a wise choice to use the actor's singing voices from the original takes.  Rather than dubbing the voices in post-production.  The technique gives the actors -- even those who are not professional singers -- an opportunity to use their voices as acting tools, rather than mere performance.

And the voices are brought forward -- over the music.  The music merely accompanies the story.  Just the reverse of the stage music-voice mix.

The music is stripped down when it needs to be.  Anne Hathaway's interpretation of "I Dreamed a Dream" is a poignant lament of a life that has had highs -- only to end in despair.  On stage, it is raw bathos.  The film version knowingly connects with its audience.

The film could have benefited from a heavier editing hand.  By trying to be too true to the stage version, the film often plods.

But it is a small quibble. 

Chesterton would see the film for what it is.  An adventure of grace seeking humans willing to accept what always comes with adventure -- an opportunity to find a better part within us.


jennifer rose said...

Les Miserables was the first book I ever deplored, and there is absolutely no way that I go to see it rendered as a movie or a musical. It is sort of funny how a freshman English teacher can ruin things, isn't it?

Steve Cotton said...

I read Witness just before reading Les Miserables in high school. I am positive that made all the difference. But you are correct about teachers. My high school English teacher, Mrs.Metz, taught me a love of the classics as well as poetry. She was one of those teachers who truly made a difference in who I am.

John Calypso said...

I thought it was a great book, and look forward to seeing the film. I was generally disappointed with the Lincoln film btw ;-0

Steve Cotton said...

It is a good interpretation. But I am sorry you didn't like Lincoln. Anything in particular.

Shannon Casey said...

I also had to read the book in high school, but I actually enjoyed it. Somehow the story stuck with me for years. I have never seen the play though, and look forward to seeing the movie.
I loved The Hobbit, and didn't feel that I had missed anything by not seeing it in 3D.

John Calypso said...

A review of the Lincoln film is something better suited over some beers or tequila between us. In short I found the characterized speculative conversations between Lincoln and his family members bothersome. I doubt Lincoln ever took the name of the Lord in vain (at least I would hope that). I went to high school with Sally Field - I seem to always find it hard to watch her in film - she played my mother in our high school drama "The Miracle Worker." ;-)

I thought the movie would have been better titled, "The Passing of the Thirteenth Amendment." It was as if it was a Ken Burn's docudrama - but it had its moments - and I think if there is any justice in the Academy Awards voting Daniel Day-Lewis will win best actor for his performance in a few months - a sterling performance - that alone making the film worth seeing flawed perhaps otherwise.