What is the 21st Century?: Hear This, It's Real

  • MUBI
A bi-weekly look at issues in contemporary film culture and technology.

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In spite of its prestige pic credentials, Tom Hooper's Les Misérables is almost endearingly eccentric. Almost. Shot from odd angles with distortive wide-angle lenses which often give the impression that space is warping and shifting around the characters, the film strikes an awkward balance between showy glitz and intentional roughness. Most importantly, there's the film's central gimmick: instead of lipsyncing, the leads performed most of their singing live on the set.

As gimmicks go, it's an interesting one; whether talking or singing, voices coming from moving or seated or costumed bodies sound nothing like voices recorded in a studio. The sound of "live" voices—flat notes and all—singing along to an off-screen orchestra mirrors the film's glamorous / scuzzy visual aesthetic.

It's a risky idea, and a lot of the time it doesn't quite gel. Russell Crowe, for instance,
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