Since I can remember 'It's a Wonderful Life' has been my favourite movie of all time, nothing came close and I will still always be in love with Jimmy Stewart and the wonderful Building & Loan! It has however, lost it's top spot in my Top 10 all time favourites and I am amazed.
As some of may not know the story I have hid the spoilers so if you do want to read them just highlight the blank spots and you can read them. I have marked each spoiler with ** at the beginning and end.
Some films you just know will be good, whether from a Director's reputation, the film house it has come from, the cast or a trailer - you get that feeling that you are about to witness some sort of cinematic greatness and that is exactly how I felt from the opening scene, just the shot of sweeping up under the floating French flag gave me goose bumps and they never went away, they got worse but never disappeared.
It is a long film 2hrs 37 mins - there is no getting away with that but it is an incredibly long book and considered one of the longest books ever written. I would have happily sat through another couple of hours (if my bladder could stand it!) I never wanted it to end.
Les Miserables (I prefer the translation of 'The Wretched') was written by Victor Hugo in 1862 and is separated into 5 volumes each with numerous chapters (365 in total) It is thought to be one of the best novels ever written although not after being critically panned at the time.
Taking it to the stage in 1985 a similar result was to be had, critics hated it but the public loved it and it now the longest running musical of all time.
When I heard they were making a film of it I was unhopeful, I didn't think that it was possible to create the passion on film that you get from seeing it on stage. The whole atmosphere being a huge part of the Les Mis experience. Hearing that Hugh Jackman had been cast slightly lifted my spirits but Ann Hathaway and Sacha Barron Cohen? I had major doubts.
Directed by Tom Hooper (The King's Speech and Eastenders!) this movie is cinematography history and the only movie I can mentally compare it to is Ben Hur just for it's sheer EPIC quality. An immense film equally in length, emotion and visual beauty!
The first book follows the Story of Jean Valjean (Jackman) a convict of 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread for his sister's starving child. 5 years for his crime and 14 for trying to escape his confines.
The film comes in on the day of Jean's parole and his subsequent 'freedom' which he all too soon realises is just a word and means nothing.
Javert (Played by Russel Crowe & the main plot antagonist) is the Inspector and heads up the disciplinarians within the jail, he has a hatred for Valjean that is apparent and unhidden. A hatred that will last him his entire life.
**Leaving prison his papers are yellow which brands him as a 'dangerous man' and he can find no work or compassion anywhere.
Sleeping on the streets and being regularly attacked and beguiled by the people he finally finds rest at a church where he is discovered by The Bishop (Colm Wilkinson) who takes pity on him and offers him food, warmth and a bed.
Valjean takes advantage during the night and takes off with the church silver but is caught and returned to the church by the police but the bishop saves him again.
Eaten alive by guilt and anger Valjean sings to God about his plight and pledges to become a changed man.**
The film then jumps 8 years and shows the poverty and sickness that thwarts the masses. Jean has become more than he could have hoped. An employer of hundreds and a respected and kind man he runs a factory in which we meet the next main character Fantine (Hathaway). **Having to put up with sexual harassment from her foreman and abuse from the other women an argument ensues and Fantine is thrown out of her place of work, her cries unheard by Valjean who has become preoccupied with the arrival of Javert as the towns new Police inspector.
At this moment a townsman is hurt under his own cart and Jean runs to his aid picking up the cart and saving the man's life, witnessed by Javert the sheer strength of the feat gives Valjean away and the seed is sown inside Javert that he has found his 'dangerous man' who broke parole all those years ago.**
Fantain has a child, a girl named Cosette who lives away and she sends money back for her daughters care, **without a job she is forced to sell her hair, teeth and finally herself losing all dignity, pride and her health along the way.**
Hathaway's version of I Dream a Dream is raw, powerful and completely thought provoking. Her look of Elvish innocence only increases the power behind the part she plays and just screams for an end to her emptiness.
**Fantain now living as a prostitute, is accosted by a 'gentleman' and attacks him, this is witnessed by Javert and she is arrested and subsequently saved by Valjean who takes her to the hospital and promises to send for her daughter 'Cosette'. **
**Javert is furious and reports Monsieur Le Mayor as Valjean. He then learns that a man has been arrested and is appearing in court as prisoner 24601 (Valjean) feeling remorse he admits his indiscretion to Jean and asks for his instant dismissal which of course Valjean will not enforce. **
Wracked with guilt that another would take his place Jean races to the court and admits his true identity. He leaves to go to Fantine, He finds her at the end of her life, feverish and hallucinating that Corsette is there. He promises again that he will bring her daughter to her as she slowly dies in his arms.
Javert follows him to the hospital where old animosities rise and a fight ensues - culminating in Valjean once again escaping.**
In the care of an Inn Keeper and his wife Cosette is a Cinderella, used as a skivvy and kept malnourished and dirty the opposite of their own daughter Eponine who is spoilt and well dressed; the Inn is a house of thieves and debauchery.
Monsieur and Madam Thenardier are criminals that rob the visitors of the establishment and keep them in a permanent intoxicated state so as not to notice! Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter are superb as the comedy aspect of the movie, horrid and disgusting they lighten the mood of the film and give you a lift just when you need it. Perfectly cast and directed. Master of the House is delivered impeccably and very funny - exactly what you would expect from Cohen.
**Valjean arrives and buys Cossette from the dubious pair who then regret they did not ask for more.
Javert is hot on his heals and arrives at the Inn just after he leaves with Cossette.
Jean sings of his new life with Cossette as his charge and how his life is full of new hope and love. He vows to keep her with him in safety forever.
A road block stops his new found happiness and yet again he has to run arriving at a coven for help he meets the man who he saved from under the cart and is given sanctuary with Cossette.
Javert sings of his mission to God to capture Jean Valjean and that he will never give up. His views of law are black and white and there are no other shades.**
Crowe has been panned for his singing ability but I have heard a lot worse (think of Pierce Brosnan in Mama Mia urghhh) and it fits in well with his portrayal, an excellent casting and the sinister presence he gives the character is unyielding and charismatic until his end.
The Red and The Black
The revolution is strong with the young poor of France and they stir with fight and anti Monarchy. They are joined by an aristocrat Marius (Redmayne), who has turned his back on his birthright and joined the fight. **He lives in a room beneath his means and we soon learn it is next door to the hideous Thenardier's who are now destitute and still thieving - they spot Cosette (played by Amanda Seyfried and my least favourite cast member) with Valjean and cause a disturbance which is answered by the Police and Jervert himself.
Valjean runs, Thenardier tells Jervert who he was and the hunt is on.
Cosette was also noticed by Marius and likewise and it was love at first sight.** I am not a big fan of Amanda Seyfried, but that is just me. she plays the part impeccably as per usual but I just expect her to belt out Abba! She does nothing wrong with the part at all but it is for me the only downside of the film.
**Epinone sings of remembering Cosette and her love for Marius, but Marius is oblivious and asks her to find Cosette for him.
Cosette sings for the truth of her Paps's past but Valjean refuses to tell her anything which makes her sad and frustrated.
Having found Cosette; Epinone takes Marius to Cosette's home and they profess their love for each other, Epinone is heartbroken and sings of her love for Marius.
Epinone's father turns up with a gang and tries to break into Valjeans home, thinking it is Javert he forces Cosette to pack and they flee yet again.
Before she leaves Cosette writes Maruis a note and leaves it on her gate but it is found and kept by Epinone instead.** Samantha Barks as Epinone is outstanding. Her voice is incredible and filled with passion and sensitivity. Fantastic performance from her and I expect we shall see her in plenty of films over the next few years.
**The revolution ensues and is a bloodthirsty failure with heavy losses on both sides. Marius sensing his imminent death sends word to Cossette but it intercepted by Valjean who decides to go to the barricade to see the boy for himself. Turning up mid battle Jean dresses as a soldier to gain access within the barricade, the revolutionaries allow him in and subsequently give him free reign to do how he pleases with the captured treacherous Javert.
Javert expecting to die at the hands of his old adversary asks Valjean to end it but Jean will not and gives Javert his freedom. Javert expresses it makes no difference and he will still catch him when the opportunity arises. Nothing Valjean can do can change the way Javert thinks, his obsession borderlines madness.
Marius is about to be shot and Epinone steps in and saves him killing herself with her act, on her death she gives him Cossette's letter and dies in his arms.
More fighting ensues but it is futile. The revolution is a failure. Marice is shot and Valjean saves his life by dragging him into the sewer. Javert searches the bodies of the fallen and cannot find Valjean. He hears noises coming from the sewer and realises where his nemesis is held up.
In the sewer Thenardier is stealing from the washed up corpses, stealing Marius' family ring he puts it on and then finds Jean who wakes and knocks him down, slinging an unconscious Maruis over his shoulder using his incredible strength he pulls them out of the stinking mess into the path of Javert.
He informs the inspector he is taking the boy to hospital and shoot him if he must, at long last Javert cannot do it and lets him go.
Knowing the emotional hold that Valjean now has on him Javert has an argument with himself and God and cannot bare the thought of owing his life to Valjean and throws himself to his death.
Marius is partially recovered and his love for Cosette refreshed and anew. He lives back with his Grandfather.
Jean tells him that he can no longer stay with them as he fears his identity will be disclosed [not knowing of Javerts fate] it would disgrace Cosette and Marius's family. Jean leaves without saying goodbye.
Cosette and Marius marry and on their wedding day the Thenardier's gatecrash and demand money from Marius, saying he had seen Jean kill a man in the sewer but Marius spots his ring on Thenardier's finger and demands to know where he got it. Thenardier has no choice but to tell him Valjean was the man who saved him in the sewer.
Thenardier then makes a mistake of saying he knows where Jean is; taking sanctuary in the convent. They are then thrown from the wedding party.**
**Valjean is dying alone in the convent. He tells of his redemption and of his love that Cosette brought to his life. He asks God to take him as he is ready. He sees Fantine and she sings to take him 'home' - Cosette and Marius arrive in time and Marice tells him he knows he saved him that night much to Cosette's shock.
Jean knows he can die in peace and say goodbye with a completely clear conscience, giving Cosette a letter of his 'confession' to read when he has passed.
Fantine sings to him and and he sees her, she leads him away and takes him to scene of where the revolution has succeeded and all those that fell are singing.**
End Sobbing here or not as in my case I carried on through the credits!
All in all I'm off to see it again this week. Even if you are not a big fan of musicals just go and see it for it's sheer stunning quality. Some scenery moments and architectural scenes really reminded me of Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge, but even so this stands alone. It is a film of overcoming ignorance and leaving hate and anger behind you, a film of hope and probably needed more now than ever.
Jackman was just amazing I have to put him up there with Olivier and Sharif he REALLY is that good.
|Had to sneak this in ;)|
It is a cinematography masterpiece and no doubt hailed as a classic for the rest of my life. A truly inspiring awesome work. Oscars abound I hope, it would be insulting not to.
I'll leave the last word to Hugo:
"So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilization, artificially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine with human fatality; so long as the three problems of the age—the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of women by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night—are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a yet more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless."
Soundtrack to this post.