Da Coconut Repablik

A Chronicle of the Da Pinoys and Da Coconut Repablik of Da Pilipins

Da Pinoy Chronicle: Les Miserables Review

Ah Les Miserables, I had read the book and the musical was a watered down version of the novel, but it was still enjoyable. So I was hyped about this film. So when I heard that this film will be released after that Metro Manila Film Festival, notorious for blocking foreign films to showcase their films with little to no substance, I am quite disappointed.

Seriously, international film critics will disregard our local films as trash. The MMFF is just a big cash in for the holiday season by blocking superb films such as this one. If the local industry is deadly serious that their films are of excellent quality, they will permit competition. The MMFF is just a pure monopoly because it will enable the local film makers to cash in the consumers to see films lacking on substance and dependent on star power of the local artists.

Before we can start our film review, let’s look at a short biography of victor Hugo. Victor Hugo was perhaps a literary figure as the same status as Alexandre Dumas, the man who wrote my favourite novel of all time The Count of Monte Cristo. There was a 2002 film adaptation about the novel but it was only decent, with the director taking several artistic licenses from the novel itself.

Victor Hugo was a Republican. He participated in the 1832 June Rebellion, the main event in Les Miserables. The June Rebellion was a failed attempt by students and revolutionaries to overthrow the July Monarchy lead by Louis Philippe, the “King of the French”.  Two years ago, these Republicans fought alongside with other factions in opposition to Charles X, the last Bourbon king which can be also referred as the Comte de Artois before his ascendance as the King of France in 1824.

The July Revolution had placed the Orleanist branch, a younger branch of the Bourbons which both of the families were members of the Capetian Dynasty to the throne. At first, Louis was received by all sides, but in just 2 years the June Rebellion and other concentrated uprisings against the Royalists became widespread. The Royalists had crushed the June Rebellion mercilessly.

It was not until 1848, when the July Monarchy was deposed because of a series of revolutions throughout Europe known as the Revolutions of 1848 or the Spring of Nations. Nationalism, Liberalism, Secularism, Democracy and Socialism began to influence most citizens regardless of social classes.

Intellectuals especially from Poland, Germany, Italy and within the Austrian Empire had organised revolts against the traditional order. The Concert of Europe organised by the former Napoleonic foreign minister Charles de Talleyrand and the Austrian chancellor Klemens von Metternich with the backing of the great powers, which its intended objective was to reverse the ideals of the French Revolution which had spread throughout Europe like wildfire partly thanks to the campaigns of Napoleon I, began to crumble overnight.

Hugo participated in the French Revolution of 1848 and he voted against Napoleon’s nephew to become the President of the Second French Republic. It was in 1852 when Louis Napoleon had instigated a self coup with the support of the military and proclaimed himself  Emperor Napoleon III that Hugo imposed himself on exile. When he was young, Hugo was a supporter of the Royalists, but he became a Republican in his later years.

While in exile, Hugo published his famous political pamphlets against Napoleon III, Napoléon le Petit and Histoire d’un crime. The pamphlets were banned in France, but nonetheless had a strong impact there. He also composed or published some of his best work during his period inGuernsey, including Les Misérables, and three widely praised collections of poetry (Les Châtiments, 1853; Les Contemplations, 1856; and La Légende des siècles, 1859).

He convinced the government of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom to spare the lives of six Irish people convicted of terrorist activities and his influence was credited in the removal of the death penalty from the constitutions of GenevaPortugal and Colombia. He had also pleaded for Benito Juárez to spare the recently captured emperor Maximilian I of Mexico but to no avail. His complete archives (published by Pauvert) show also that he wrote a letter asking the USA, for the sake of their own reputation in the future, to spare John Brown’s life, but the letter arrived after Brown was executed.

Although Napoleon III granted an amnesty to all political exiles in 1859, Hugo declined, as it meant he would have to curtail his criticisms of the government. It was only after Napoleon III fell from power and the Third Republic was proclaimed that Hugo finally returned to his homeland in 1870, where he was promptly elected to the National Assembly and the Senate.

He was in Paris during the siege by the Prussian army in 1870, famously eating animals given to him by the Paris zoo. As the siege continued, and food became ever more scarce, he wrote in his diary that he was reduced to “eating the unknown”.

Because of his concern for the rights of artists and copyright, he was a founding member of the Association Littéraire et Artistique Internationale, which led to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. However, in Pauvert’s published archives, he states strongly that “any work of art has two authors : the people who confusingly feel something, a creator who translates these feelings, and the people again who consecrate his vision of that feeling. When one of the authors dies, the rights should totally be granted back to the other, the people”.

The Franco Prussian War, which Otto von Bismarck had instigated in an attempt to unify Germany into a single empire had defeated the French in a war that was both humiliating and demoralising for the majority of Frenchmen. The sudden siege and capture of Paris by the Prussians, the short lived Paris Commune which was brutally crushed by the Third Republic lead by Adolphe Thiers had left him depressed.

At the time after the war, the government was again dominated by the Royalists. Most of the people thought that the Republic was a temporary government until a Bourbon, Orleanist or even a Bonapartist restoration became possible. In 1877, the two feuding families of the Capetian Dynasty became united for a short time.

But a restoration became impossible after the Comte de Chambrod had refused to accept the Tricolor flag of the Republic and instead he wanted the old flag of the Bourbons instead. The Assembly refused his wish. There was even worse yet to come. In 1879, the only male child of Napoleon III, Napoleon Prince Imperial known as Eugene Louis was killed in 1879 by the Zulus during the Anglo Zulu war, moments before the Battle of Isandlwana, which had became one of the most disastrous defeats of the British Empire.

Victor Hugo’s death on 22 May 1885, at the age of 83, generated intense national mourning. He was not only revered as a towering figure in literature, he was a statesman who shaped the Third Republic and democracy in France. More than two million people joined his funeral procession in Paris from the Arc de Triomphe to the Panthéon, where he was buried. He shares a crypt within the Panthéon with Alexandre Dumasand Émile Zola. Most large French towns and cities have a street named after him.

Hugo left five sentences as his last will to be officially published :

« Je donne cinquante mille francs aux pauvres. Je veux être enterré dans leur corbillard.

Je refuse l’oraison de toutes les Eglises. Je demande une prière à toutes les âmes.

Je crois en Dieu. »

(“I leave 50 000 francs to the poor. I want to be buried in their hearse.

I refuse [funeral] orations of all churches. I beg a prayer to all souls.

I believe in God.”)

I have the opportunity to watch Les Miserables last week and it is a masterpiece. Admit it, the film has flaws of its own but it was overshadowed throughout the entire film. So let’s not waste any time let’s review Les Mierables. By the way, I also recommend his other books such as the Hunchback of Notre Dame to you.

Plot

Warning:  Spoiler alert and I had used Wikipedia to explain the whole plot to me which was similar to the one in my perspective in order to save time.

The film starts with the “Work Song’ sung by the inmates of the Bagne of Toulon. We can see that these guys are pulling an immense ship using their bare hands. We are introduced to our main characters quickly. Jean Valjean, known by the name 24601 in the prison was released by Inspector Javert after he finished his 19 year sentence. “24601″ is one of my favourite songs in the film. Javert was still determined to arrest the ex convict.

Valjean traveled from one town after another to seek employment, but he was repeatedly turned down because of his ex convict status. Then we see the Bishop of Digne, which accepted him as a guest to his convict. He was arrested by the police for stealing silverware but the Bishop said that it was a gift to Valjean.

Moved by the Bishop’s grace, Valjean breaks his parole vowing to start an honest life helping others under a new identity. Javert swears he will bring the escaped convict to justice. Javert swears he will bring the escaped convict to justice.

Eight years later, Valjean has become a factory owner and mayor of Montreuil-sur-MerFantine , one of his workers, is discovered to be sending money to her illegitimate daughter, Cosette , who lives with the unscrupulous Thénardiers  and their daughter Éponine  and is dismissed by the foreman. In a desperate attempt to support her daughter, Fantine becomes a prostitute. She is arrested by Javert after she attacks an abusive man, but is saved by Valjean, who has her hospitalised.

Later, Valjean learns that a man believed to be him has been arrested. Unable to accept that an innocent man is condemned, Valjean reveals his identity to the court before departing for the hospital. There he promises a dying Fantine that he will look after her daughter. After escaping from Javert, Valjean finds Cosette and pays the Thénardiers to allow him to take her, and promises to be like a father to her.

Nine years later, Jean Maximilien Lamarque, the only government official sympathetic toward the poor, is nearing death. Students Marius Pontmercy  and Enjolras , together with street urchin Gavroche (Daniel Huttlestone), discuss revolution. Marius later catches a glimpse of Cosette , now a young woman, and instantly falls in love with her. Meanwhile, despite Cosette’s questioning, Valjean refuses to tell her about his past or her mother.

At a café, Enjolras organises a group of idealistic students as Lamarque’s death is announced. Meanwhile, Éponine , now Marius’s friend, leads him to Cosette, where the two profess their love for one another. Lamenting that her secret love for Marius will never be reciprocated, Éponine fatalistically decides to join the revolution. When a gang led by Thenardier attempts to capture Valjean for ransom from Javert, Eponine screams to warn Valjean and Cosette; Valjean decides to flee despite Cosette’s desire for Marius. As they leave, Enjolras rallies the Parisians to revolt, and Marius sends a farewell letter to Cosette. The next day, the students interrupt Lamarque’s funeral procession and begin their revolt.

Javert poses as a rebel in order to spy on them, but is quickly exposed by Gavroche and captured. During the ensuing gunfight, Éponine saves Marius at the cost of her own life, professing her love to him before she dies. Valjean, intercepting the letter from Marius to Cosette, goes to the barricade to protect Marius. After saving Enjolras from snipers, he is allowed to execute Javert. However, when the two are alone, Valjean frees Javert, telling him to run.

With the Parisians not joining the revolution as the students expected, they resolve to fight to the death. Everyone is killed but Marius, who is saved when Valjean drags his unconscious body into the sewers. Thénardier, scavenging the dead bodies, steals Marius’s ring. Valjean recovers and escapes the sewers carrying Marius, but is confronted at the exit by Javert. Javert threatens to shoot Valjean if he refuses to surrender, but Valjean ignores him. Unable to reconcile the conflict between his civil and moral duties, two things which he always considered the same, Javert commits suicide.

Later, Marius mourns for his friends but Cosette comforts him. Revealing his past to Marius, Valjean tells him he must leave because his presence endangers Cosette, and makes Marius promise never to tell her. Marius and Cosette marry; the Thénardiers crash the reception and testify that they saw Valjean carrying a murdered corpse through the sewers.

Thénardier unwittingly shows Marius the ring that he stole from him as “proof.” Recognising the ring, Marius realises that it was Valjean who saved his life. Being told Valjean’s location by Thénardier, Marius and Cosette depart to find him.

As Valjean sits dying in a local convent, he perceives the spirit of Fantine appearing to take him to Heaven. Cosette and Marius rush in to bid farewell. Valjean hands Cosette his confession of his past life, and joins the spirits of Fantine, the Bishop, Enjolras, Éponine, Gavroche, and the other rebels at the barricade.

Music and Casting

The music is just excellent, it is in fact wonderful. There are several catchy songs throughout the film like “Lovely Ladies”, “One Day More”, “I Dreamed A Dream”, “24601″ and my personal favourite “Do You Hear the People Sing?”. The songs in the film are very good and well written. The songs are catchy, memorable and it will give and diagnose you with a last song syndrome.

Effort is seen throughout the entire film. The director had did a good job in all aspects. The casting is also satisfactory, with Russell Crowe my personal favourite who played Javert. I also enjoyed the performances of  Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Samantha Barks and Sacha Baron Cohen. Their voices are good except a bit for Crowe and the story is well expressed even with little dialogue and pure music. This is a very satisfactory part of the film.

Characters and Setting

Most of you are familiar with the characters, no need to explain further. Jean Valjean and Javert are perhaps the most recognisable characters. The Thenadiers are delegated as comic relief characters and Eponine’s love for Marius can be considered as the symbol of the friendzoned. The setting is all in France, especially Paris. I had explained the June Rebellion so there will be no further need to explain it in detail. By the way, I did not know until much later that Borat was in this film or Sacha Baron Cohen.

The students had failed their goals in overthrowing the monarchy and they were all executed by the soldiers. The setting is very chaotic because it is a period where the ideals of the French Revolution are still fresh amongst the ordinary citizens. In fact most students of the Friends of the ABC are nostalgic about it especially to Maximilien Robespierre, the leading figure of the French Revolution’s most violent period, the Reign of Terror.

The Terror had killed an estimated 40,000 people in just a year under the blade of the guillotine. It was only stopped after Robespierre and his closest associates were executed during the Thermidorian Reaction which had lead to the establishment of the Directoire, a more conservative government. The Revolution had crippled the aristocracy and the church permanently. It was a time of social change. The Industrial Revolution had even accelerated development and it resulted to the fall of the traditional guilds and other institutions of the Medieval order. It had destroyed the very last remnants of feudalism.

Les Mierables had tackled most of the occurring changes at that time. The film did a very good romantisation of the student revolutionaries at the barricades. The novel was written during the Romantic period. It has a very tense and atmospheric setting, the film has exploited it to the fullest. It is impressive,the film is a work of art and an eye candy at the same time entertaining.

Verdict

My verdict for the film is a score of 9.5/10. It has some minor flaws like Crowe’s singing ability which I found ind of off key but satisfactory, the scene where he gave his medal to Gavroche which was very fast paced and lacked detail, the scene at the inn when the man’s artificial leg is pulled off, the leg’s socket is a modern ischial weight bearing socket, which wasn’t invented until the 1950s and more film goofs that had prevented my perfect score of 10.

Still the film that has the 10/10 verdict  with me is the 1969 Soviet film War and Peace or Voyna I Mir. It is the magnum opus in the history of film making and perhaps the Borodino scene was the most bloodiest scene in the history of film. The film depicted the carnage of the failed Napoleonic invasion of Russia on both sides and a view on Russian society in general.

In conclusion, the film is worth your money. I am even advising you to watch it again and again. It will make you cry. The emotion of the film is just intense. The film has exploited its potential in every possible way and you can probably see the effort of the makers of this film. They are truly sincere in their objective to make such a satisfying film not just for the sake of intellect, but also in the sense of being entertaining.

Watch this film. Am I the only one who watched the film partly because of Borat? By the way, I cannot imagine how some of my classmates hated this film so much. They compared it to the High School Musical franchise, which was a shame to eternity.

Youth nowadays, they are more oriented to watch a film with vampires that have problems with their skin, girls who are nothing but dumbass in distresses and some stupid songs. Some of them even compared it to Glee.

No offence to LGBT out there, but I cannot even stand 5 minutes of the show. They are ruining some of my favourite songs. admit it, some songs are good but most of them are downright terrible!

They regarded those as art? It is already an evidence that anti intellectualism is very ingrained into the Filipino culture. Most of them cannot even distinguish art and pure garbage. Enough of that rant.

Les Miserables will always be forever a masterpiece. It might become the new Casablanca of the 21st century. I see you guys on my next article. Adios!

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One comment on “Da Pinoy Chronicle: Les Miserables Review

  1. T
    June 8, 2013

    Yeah, this film was da bomb.
    show notes;
    I constantly complained though that Javert should have been more menacing. My wife, who had never seen les mis before, kept asking me which part lea salonga played, and i answered her with “a whore”.
    I was disappointed though that garvoche didn’t get a full play on his song.
    I got stares from family members when i sang in chorus with one day more (yeah, saw it on video, no cinemas around here).

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