Les Miserables

Way, way back when we first got married, we made a list of movies we wanted the other to see.

On the top of Tim’s list was Les Miserables, the 10th anniversary edition.

True confession: While I seem to attract Les Mis fanatics as roommates (Hi, Heather!  Hi, Tim!), I had here-to-fore this weekend no clue why (why they were fanatics or why I attracted them…I have since ascertained that an exemplary taste in music closely correlates with an exemplary choice in roommates).

Well, despite its highly ranked status on our list of must watch movies, it took us until last weekend to finally track down the right version, seat ourselves amid couch cushions and cozy blankets, and spectate away to our hearts content.

It’s a 2+ hour production, so we split it up between two evenings.  And I have to be honest: I loved it.  But at first, I was a little taken aback.  Tim had tried to prepare me by describing what we were about to see as a ‘musical’.  In MY vocabulary, musical=Sound of Music=a regular movie + some singing on the side.  So here I am, settled in to watch a movie + some extra good sound track (Tim’s head for music far surpasses anything I could ask or imagine, so if he says the melodies are worth hearing, I have 3,000% confidence that I’m in for a real treat).  Imagine my consternation when the opening scene features a conductor and his orchestra!  No typical movie, this–but a musical in the most musical sense (the entire thing was sung!  What novelty!  What beauty!  What inspiration!  What huge gaps in the plot line!)

Seriously, though, once I adjusted my expectations…I realized I would want it no other way.  The orchestral score, true to my husband’s prediction, was phenomenal.  The singers themselves were a marvel.  The scope and depth of the subject and the characters left me with a deep respect for Victor Hugo as a writer.  I was touched, stirred, and provoked to thought.  I thrilled with every gospel reference–explicit Christian themes neither trite nor dismissive, but deep and thoughtful and honest!  Although the original work is decidedly Roman Catholic, this particular portrayal places less emphasis on Roman Catholicism and more emphasis on the Law and Gospel themes—which is one reason Tim likes it so extra well.

That’s my exuberant plug for this musical.  Here are my cautionary notes: if Tim had not been there explaining the plot to me, I would have at times been completely lost as to what was happening.  Apparently some versions have text on the screen in between songs telling you what is happening–but ours did not.  So either make sure you find a version that does, you are familiar with the story, or you watch it with someone who is in the know.

Also, the innkeeper’s language was quite objectionable (using Jesus’ name multiple times in a very blasphemous way).  Thankfully, the innkeeper’s character was NOT to be admired, and he was portrayed as a huge loser…while Christ and Christian love were exalted.  Still, I wish I hadn’t had to hear some of what he said (sang).  The film also includes several references to prostitution, which I didn’t find too problematic but others might (i.e. families with younger children).

But lest I leave you on a dour note…

  1. #1 by Anna C on March 1, 2011 - 2:00 pm

    We’ll have to track that down before too long. I know Nathaniel has mentioned he likes it too. I know parts of the story, and I played some of the music way back when I took piano lessons (including Do You Hear the People Sing, which I love) and my mom has the sound track so I know it’s good. My folks went to see it performed in DC quite a few years ago. It might be fun to go sometime (if they’re still performing it other than NYC, b/c I seem to remember hearing it was closing?).

    • #2 by Cristy on March 1, 2011 - 2:07 pm

      That WOULD be fun. We’ll have to keep that idea filed away and pull it out after tax season….

  2. #3 by Evelyn on March 1, 2011 - 3:14 pm

    So what is the particular recommended version? I know nothing of Les Mis myself, and have always kind of known that I should correct that, but have never been introduced.

  3. #5 by joannamv on March 1, 2011 - 3:15 pm

    I’ve never seen Les Mis. I’d like to see it in real life, not via film. The sound track would be good too. I miss going to the theatre and concert hall!

    • #6 by Cristy on March 1, 2011 - 3:31 pm

      Well, it’s showing in Baltimore this week, but I’m afraid we might be a little too last minute to get seats…

  4. #7 by Naomi Bower on March 1, 2011 - 4:53 pm

    Hey Cristy! Love this post. I am assuming you are talking about my Heather but maybe not? I love Les Miserables although I haven’t seen the movie version! I read the abridged version in high school and saw the broadway performance in NYC with my sisters. It is moving and so well done… if you get a chance to see it, all of the Shaw sisters would highly recommend. I play the soundtrack a lot and Nate always looks at me a little funny when I go around singing all the songs…Hope you are doing well!

    • #8 by Cristy on March 1, 2011 - 5:41 pm

      Yup, I remember when you all went to see it! Heather was always trying to explain to me the appeal. Now I know!!

      (We are doing well…how about you all? We need to figure out a way to catch up sometime…hmmm….maybe I’ll have to send you an e-mail.)

  5. #9 by Gretchen B on March 1, 2011 - 6:06 pm

    Love this musical! I saw it in high school and had read the book, so that did help with understanding the plot. My parents have a (the?) tenth anniversary edition, and it’s basically a concert-in-costume…when I saw it on Broadway, there was a little more acting accompanying the script (still all music). Aanndd, my in-laws are Les mis fanatics! They must have seen it dozens, yes dozens of times when it was on Broadway! Glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

  6. #10 by joannamv on March 10, 2011 - 7:41 pm

    The 25th edition is showing on PBS in, err, 20 minutes. Girl you need a text plan!

    • #11 by Cristy on March 11, 2011 - 8:19 am

      We noticed that, but we decided not to watch (I’m not even sure we have PBS). Did you see it?

      • #12 by joannamv on March 11, 2011 - 11:04 pm

        Nah. Of course you have PBS! It’s just there, in the air. At least I think so :-s

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