Sunday, December 30, 2012

Russell Crowe can't sing

It would have been better to get the Christmas Opening Day but getting the Friday night's ticket for the latest Les Misérables movie production was still quite alright. The next day is a long weekend with New Year holiday for next Tuesday.

The last Les Mis that we saw was Hollywood's 1998 version with Liam Neeson as main protagonist, Jean Valjean and Geoffrey Rush as the main antagonist, the fanatic policemen, Inspector Javert.

Friday night's version is a British musical drama film from the stage adaption of Victor Hugo's novel by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg.

The movie cast Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, and Amanda Seyfried as the main characters of Jean Valjean, Javert, Fantine and Cosette.

The main cast, Hellena Bonham Carter as the Madamme Thandiers, the child actress with the beautiful voice, Isabelle Allen as little Cosette, characters Murius and Eponine acted their parts and vocally well, except Russell Crowe's singing.

Crowe just bombed on his vocals and his singing spoilt the tone-setting opening scene with it's great cinematography with a depiction reminiscent of the classic scene of Cleopatra entering Egypt. He is a great actor, won an Academy Awards and acted in many hit movies, but his singing in this movie just stinks.

Stage musical singing does not require vocals with great tones and pitch to deliver beautiful melodies, but is more depiction of the character. His had no expression.

Anyway, since our college days till to-date, we've attended some 6 or 7 Les Mis productions; from the University's Theater Department production to Hollywood movie production and several French film versions.

Quite few versions, but except Andrew Lloyd Weber's theater productions in Broadway, New York and  West End, London. As college student (or Malaysian glorious description as mahasiswa), we could only afford taking photo of the billboards and us posing in front of the theaters, but not to buy the tickets.

Nevertheless, after watching several versions of Les Mis productions, perhaps one can be described as a groupie. There is something inspiring about Victor Hugo's 5-volume novel published in 1862.

Set against the background of France between the era of Napolean Bonaparte or Napolean I and nephew, Napolean III and at the time of the student-led June Rebellion of 1832, Les Mis inspired something like 20 different movie versions and as many stage adaptations. [See IMDb here]

We've watched the French movie versions with Jean-Paul Belmondo (1995) and Gerard Depardieu as Jean Viljean and the 2000 English TV mini series version of Gerard Depardies also as Jean Valjean.

The latest 2012 version of Les Mis was developed from the 25th Anniversary Concert in 2010. One can see the video of the event and savour the great songs, below:

The musical movie's story, as taken from Wikipedia, reads as follows:

In 1815, convict Jean Valjean was released on parole by prison guard Javert after serving a nineteen-year sentence. 

He is offered food and shelter by the Bishop of Digne, but later steals the Bishop's silver during the night. He is caught by the authorities, but the Bishop says that the silver was given as a gift, and secures Valjean's release. 

Ashamed by the Bishop's generosity, Valjean breaks his parole and vows to start an honest life under a new identity. 

Javert swears he will bring the escaped convict to justice.

Eight years later, Valjean has become a factory owner and mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer. 

Fantine, 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. 

Left with no option, Fantine turns to prostitution. 

During an argument with an abusive customer, Javert, now a police inspector, arrests Fantine, but Valjean intercedes and takes her to a hospital.

Later, Valjean learns that a man believed to be him has been arrested. Unable to condemn an innocent man, 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. 

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, discuss fomenting revolution. 

Later Marius 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 Fantine.

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. 

Later, an attempted robbery of Valjean's house makes him mistakenly think that Javert has discovered him, and he flees with Cosette. 

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 assault. 

Javert, disguised as one of the rebels, spies among the revolutionaries, 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. 

When the two are alone, Valjean frees Javert and fires his gun to fake the execution. Initially disbelieving, Javert wonders at Valjean's generosity.

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 doesn't 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 in the sewers. Thénardier unwittingly shows Marius the ring that he stole from him as "proof." Recognising the ring, Marius realizes that it was Valjean who saved his life. 

Marius and Cosette rush to Valjean after being told his location by Thénardier.

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 the spirits of Fantine and the Bishop guide him to paradise, where he joins the spirits of Enjolras, Éponine, Gavroche, and the other rebels at the barricade.

Since the movie musical was wholly adopted from the stage production, it did not sufficiently established the characters and the screenplay seems disjointed. The advantage the movie media offers should have been capitalised to give a greater justice to one of the greatest novels of the 19th Century.

So much for our opinion.

Before it's UK's opening, the movie has received four Golden Globe Awards nomination, including Best Film (Musical or Comedy), Best Actor (Musical or Comedy) for Hugh Jackman and Best Supporting Actress for Ann Hathaway.

Thank Gawd, Russell Crowe didn't get any nomination or our review would have missed by a mile. Hugh Jackman and Ann Hathaway truly deserves the nominations.

The interesting part of Les Mis lies in the dilemma faced by the main characters of Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert because one cannot clearly identify between the protagonist and the antagonist.

Take note the picture now is from the 1998 movie drama version.

Jean Valjean was seeking redemption from his bitterness against a repressive system that unfairly sent him to prison for stealing bread for his hungry nephew. He faced Javert, who is determined to send him back to prison.

Javert took his responsibility with such dedication on his belief that Valjean is a bad person for jumping parole and escaping prison when he was resent once which was not mentioned in the movie or theater versions.

The character of Javert was potrayed in the movie and stage as a fanatic Inspector who take out his responsibility to maintain law and order with such extreme dedication. He upholds the law to it's  letter and spirit.

Javert believes he has a responsibility to maintain societal morality by defending the establishment.

There was something missing in the character of Javert and his motivation to be such. In the original novel version, he was described as being born in prison to a convict father and a gypsy mother. He renounces both of them and started working as a guard in the prison.

Les Mis was not a simple plot of good versus evil and good triumph. It was a dilemma and conflict between a bad person that redeemed himself into a good samaritan with a government servant judiciously carrying out his duty to end up facing a personal moral conflict.

Valjean spared Javert's life and allowed him to escape. That had a profound effect on Javert who come to realised that Valjean has redeem himself to be a better person and had no vengence towards him.

Javert came face to face with Valjean again.

This time Valjean was in the midst of saving the life of Marius as he carried him a hospital from the barricade by escaping through a sewer passage. He could not arrest him and accepted his honourable promise to give himself up voluntarily.

As he await allowed Valjean by the River Seine, Javert could not reconcile himself for forsake his duty to arrest someone he has now believed is not a bad person.

Javert took his life by jumping into the River Seine.

The 1998 movie version starring Liam Neeson and Geoffrey Rush highlighted that conflict.

The drama ended with Javert committing suicide in front of the eyes of the surrendering Valjean. That was one classy ending and considered our most favourite Les Mis.

The 2012 movie musical ends with the revolting students and poor peasants waving red flags of people power in triumph. For stage production, it serves as the closing scene and partly to receive the audience ovation.

To use the same closing for the movie musical version, it seemed to be in conflict with the message in one of the sub-plot in the play version. The anti-monarchy June Revolution or Paris Uprising of 1832 to reverse the July Revolution of 1830 was seen as a futile effort.

Already disenchanted with the Reign of Terror after the Revolution and perhaps scepticism on these students from the higher social class trying to champion the poor, the people did not gave the support that happened earlier during the French Revolution of 1789-99.

The rebels were totally demolished. Marius's friends died in vain and did not die that glorious death.

It was only in 1848 that the Third Wave of French Revolution came and created the French Second Republic or the Napolean III imperialist regime of 1852 to 1870. It was still far from republican democrasy and social liberty they had envisioned.

Victor Hugo wrote the Les Misérables novel during the era.

This tumultuous moment of French history was filled with unstability and radicalism that resulted in widespread poverty, famine and unemployment on the common people.

Perhaps, we can learn something from this piece of history - the conflict, the dilemmas and the prices on humanity - as a certain segment of the population like Marius and his friends believed in revolutionary mode of regime change.

They willingly receive foreign covert funding and covort with foreign powers to sacrifice our independence and sovereignty for their ideology of dreams. In the long run, it will eventually infringed on our own very freedom and peaceful co-existence.

Is Malaysia having a massive segment of the population living in destitute, hunger and malnutrition as occurred during the time of Louis XVI for us to take such revolutionary route promoted by certain groups as the course for the country?

Is Malaysia in such a situation like post revolutionary France that the royal court was so distanced from the suffering of the public that when told the people had no bread, the reply was, "Give them cakes!"

Ponder that.

During the time the people were "up-in-arms" against former Prime Minister, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, one wise man said, "One can start a revolution, but when started, no one knows how to it ends, thus how will one end it."

Viva Malaysie! Une Malaysie!


Anonymous said...

You Kidding Us!?

If you have to compare with events in France do you have to go back a few hundred years?

Why not Try Comparing with the France of Now!?

Altantuya Case is Being Resurrected in France and Najib is Listed as a Wanted Witness!!

Joe Black

Anonymous said...

Hey Joe Bodoh

Up to him lah who he wants to compare or if it is only a film review, it is NOT your blog!!!

A bodoh is a bodoh ... how can you believe an unsubtantiated LIE and when explained several times, still repeat the same LIE!

Real bodoh can believe CIA funded SUARAM!!!

Holiwood said...

I agree..Rusell was terrible. How on earth did he get that role? I thought Anne was no good either, until her last song. Am in love with Hugh Jackman now :D

And yes I agree on the last bit of the blog too.

redomelette said...

We filmed this "tribute" to Russell Crowe's performance.

My Say