The lives of numerous people over the course of 20 years in 19th century France, weaved together by the story of an ex-convict named Jean Valjean on the run from an obsessive police inspector, who pursues him for only a minor offense.
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After stealing a loaf a bread to feed a starving family, Jean Valjean is sentenced to ten years at hard labor as a galley slave. There he is taught to read and write by another prisoner and meets Javert, an obsessive policeman who was himself born to convict parents aboard a prison ship. After his release, Valjean is treated as a pariah but finally finds shelter in the home of a kindly bishop. Valjean repays the clergyman's generosity by stealing his silver plate. He is apprehended by the authorities and returned to the bishop but is amazed when the kindly old priest tells them that the valuable plates were a gift. This becomes a transforming experience for the ex-convict, who establishes himself under an assumed name in a small country village as factory manager and ultimately mayor. Unfortunately the newly-promoted Javert is assigned there as chief inspector. Although he doesn't recognize his old nemesis at first, the two clash over Javert's overzealous prosecution of the letter of ... Written by
I pride myself on being a good officer.
That's very good. Only I'm afraid you'll get little practice here, Inspector Javert. We're a quiet town.
I have heard this, yet there is crime everywhere, monsieur.
And filth also if one looks hard enough.
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Once you have seen the Black and White film "Les Miserables" with Michael Rennie as Jean Valjean and Robert Newton as Etienne Javert all others fall short by comparison. It's true, there are several versions, both American and French, but each lack the total depth of the 1952 film. Some are too long, (the French Version is three hours) some are mismatched actors, like the one with Anthony Perkins and Ian Holm, and some have forgotten the spirit of the book itself. This particular version which includes actor Edmund Gwenn is, in my opinion superb! This film encompasses the essence of Victor Hugos book. Like a fine wine which has aged well, this vintage is a true masterpiece. Enjoy. ****
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