Archive for February, 2013

Les Misérables – Tom Hooper

les miz
Les Misérables is one of the longest novels ever written. Reading is an activity that permits us to recharge and live a life between attentive reading sessions. Les Misérables, the musical, is almost 3 hours long with one intermission that allows the audience to freshen up with healthy gossip. Les Misérables, the musical drama film, is almost as long as the theatrical musical but without any intermission and obviously cannot keep the viewer’s full attention all the way through.

Starting with these superficial differences I can say the novel is better than the theatrical musical and the latter is better than the musical drama film.

I have to confess I have never read the whole book but as I said this can be a merit of the novel. And I’ve only seen the 10th anniversary dream-cast concert of Les Miz, never the show. But that concert that was mainly about the music with a static cast and chorus tops Tom Hooper’s bombastic approach with all that mad agitation of characters and camera.

Nothing’s wrong with the content and Victor Hugo can be proud there, “somewhere beyond the barricade”. But the form, is it really a musical?

As much as I appreciate the actors’ efforts to sing their heart out I think that every compromise regarding vocal score, modulations, amplitude, range and all those details composers stick to like freaks is a step away from the essence.

Les Misérables is a movie with actors who sing their dialogues the best they can. Their acting is good but, honestly, the professional singers from the original musical played their characters better with fewer acting techniques. I don’t’ think they’re better actors than the ones in the movie but I do think that the music was already composed in a way to transmit all the necessary emotions and all you need is to follow the notes, the octave, the key etc to get the wanted effect. Hooper wanted more than that, he wanted suffering to be super-visible and closed in on the actors’ faces so we can perfectly see the emotional whirlpool, so we can witness every tear thus the singing was forced into melodic whispering. Not necessarily a bad thing but, sadly, Hooper did not know when or how to make a highly recommended step back.

When the most intriguing character, Inspector Javert, is at the peak of his own tragedy and so is the orchestra, Russel Crowe is only half way there and that’s not entertainment! And that’s just one example when the libretto, orchestra and score are off-balance even though they’re correctly tuned according to musical mathematics.

My biggest disillusion was caused by the Thénardiers. I was shocked to see no real conspiracy or any other kind of relation between Bonham Carter and Baron Cohen the two landing far from the novel’s brutal and not close enough to the musical’s successfully comic characters. But is half their fault, they do act and sing poorly but also director, photographer and, I dare say, makeup artist and costume designer are all very chaotic when it comes to Thénardiers scenes.

But the fact that the singing does not meet the perfectionist requirements of a musical that is in fact an opera shouldn’t have been such a major issue if director, photographer and editor would have treated such a complex project with more patience and less over-the-top solutions.

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