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.