Film Scouts Reviews

"Les Misérables"

by Henri Béhar

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This epic reinterpretation of Victor Hugo's famed 19th-century masterpiece is a movie for everyone who wishes they still made movies the way they used to make 'em. Claude Lelouch transplants Hugo's tale of Jean Valjean, the thief-turned-saint, to the first half of the 20th century, casting weathered New Wave icon Jean-Paul Belmondo in three roles: a man wrongly imprisoned (as was Valjean) at the turn-of-the-century; the man's illiterate son who helps a Jewish family fleeing the Nazis; and, in excerpts from the novel, Valjean himself. Lelouch's point is less literary than metaphysical: that there have always been versions of Valjean, Javert, etc. And that there always will be. His movie suggests we exist on an eternal Ecclesiastical conundrum of nothing new under the sun, suspended between the obscenity of an Auschwitz and the decency of Anne Frank's attic. This is "old- fashioned" movie-making that Hollywood can't - or won't - undertake any more; a film that relies on narrative richness, a panoply of characters and moral themes more than it does on MTV editing or downtown chic. If only the folks who keep investing zillions in "Showgirls" or "Jade" had Lelouch's "old-fashioned" confidence in his audience.

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