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.
The scene is set during the French Restoration at the beginning of the 19th century. Jean Valjean, a galley slave who was sent to prison for stealing food, is now released after serving ... See full summary »
Valjean,Cosette,Javert ,Thénardier,Marius,Gavroche,Eponine et les Autres..
Jean-Paul Le Chanois,as anyone past infancy knows ,at least in France ,was the "Bête Noire" of the Nouvelle Vague .More than any other director,Godard and his clique were ruthless when they used to speak of him.Unlike Carné ,Duvivier,Clouzot and Grémillon- other victims of the Young Turks who were better than their persecutors anyway- ,he was never restored to favor even by the contemporary critics.Jean Tulard writes in the "Dictionnaire des Réalisateurs" ::" He represents the mediocrity of the fifties cinema (...)He made the worst of all "les Miserables" versions(..) " Objections to Le Chanois's version remained: the pictures are too clean,the characters (particularly Danielle Delorme's Fantine) seem well-fed .Bourvil is miscast as Thenardier:he is too gentle ,too nice to portray him successfully.Cosette is forgettable as a girlie,she is totally bland as Marius's love.How can a director be wrong with the famous scene of the doll,which every French schoolboy and every schoolgirl in my country know by heart? Such is the case here.Waterloo battle and the scenes on the barricades are not really exciting .(But Hossein's slow motions in the 1982 version starring Lino Ventura was not really an improvement on it.
On the plus side,Gabin is a good Valjean -he does not equal Harry Baur in the Raymond Bernard version though- and Bernard Blier is the best Javert I've ever seen.The Valjean/Javert relationship would inspire lots and lots of screenplays,"the fugitive" for instance.Also worthwhile is Silvia Montfort's portrayal of Thenardier's daughter:she easily outclasses Beatrice Altariba's Cosette.
People complain because there are scenes in the novel that were not filmed.Let's not forget that it's a mammoth novel:only a miniseries could do Hugo justice.And anyway it's better than the Liam Neeson version and its happy end.
NB:When the movie was released in France it was divided into two parts (called "epoques" (=eras)) which was the word they used at the time and the audience was invited to come back and thus pay twice to see the whole.
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