Les Misérables

By N Mark Castro

lesmiserablesbookcover

1,488 pages, 530,982 words.

That’s what it took Victor Marie Hugo to put down on ink his masterpiece Les Misérables in 1862, aside from his earlier novel Notre-Dame de Paris in 1831.

Les Misérables is a familiar story to most of the known world, which weaves the trials of the peasant Jean Valjean – a man unjustly imprisoned, baffled by destiny, and hounded by his nemesis, the magnificently realized, ambiguously malevolent police detective Javert – Hugo achieves the sort of rare imaginative resonance that allows a work of art to transcend its genre.

Trying to forget his past and live an honest life, escaped convict Jean Valjean risks his freedom to take care of a motherless young girl during a period of political unrest in Paris.

Although Hugo’s initial literary fame came from poetry, his novels cemented his ascent to one of the greatest writers mankind has produced, providing a keen insight on his political, social, and religious views upon the world he lived in and the world he hoped for.

Hope.

The most dangerous thing mankind ever received from Pandora.

Stories have it that every ill-will mankind was heir to came out of the box which Pandora opened.

The last to come out was Hope.

I did not make that depressing story up.

The Ancient Greeks did.

Although not a musician, Hugo’s beautiful poems have attracted an exceptional amount of interest from musicians, and numerous melodies have been based on his poetry by composers such as Berlioz, Bizet, Fauré, Franck, Lalo, Liszt, Massenet, Saint-Saëns, Rachmaninov and Wagner. Two famous musicians of the 19th century were friends of Hugo: Berlioz and Liszt.

And then there’s Les Misérables, which has spawned various stage musical and film productions, including the Christmas-release of the latest version, starring a star-studded Hollywood cast.

Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean

Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean

Russell Crowe as Inspector Javert

Russell Crowe as Inspector Javert

Amanday Seyfried as Cosette

Amanday Seyfried as Cosette

Anne Hathaway as Fantine

Anne Hathaway as Fantine

Samantha Barks reprising her stage role onscreen as Eponine

Samantha Barks reprising her stage role onscreen as Eponine

The great Helena Bonham-Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen

The great Helena Bonham-Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen

But what’s interesting to see in the film is Colm Wilkinson on his cameo role as the Bishop of Digne, the priest who takes pity on Valjean. It’s a brief role but an important one — his act of kindness sets Valjean on a different path in life.

Colm Wilkinson portrayed onstage the first ever Jean Valjean and was also the original Phantom of the Opera.

The original Jean Valjean, Colm Wilkinson as Bishop of Digne

The original Jean Valjean, Colm Wilkinson as Bishop of Digne

The musical Les Misérables, from which the film was inspired, has music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, original French lyrics by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel, with an English-language libretto by Herbert Kretzmer. And since the English-language version was first performed in London in 1985, it has been translated into 21 languages, performed in 43 countries, won almost 100 awards (Tony, Grammy) and been seen by more than 60 million people.

The original French version was sung by Rose Laurens.

While Patti Lupone brought the English-version to life.

Becoming her signature song and retaining ownership of its magic well into her advancing age.

But what comes as an interesting surprise to Les Misérables loyal fans is the homage that the 2012 film version made on its iconic poster.

Even if you never saw the long-running stage musical Les Miserables, you’re probably familiar with this iconic poster design, which is an illustration of small, troubled-looking child with windswept hair and a grim expression on her face.

In the upcoming film adaptation, conventional marketing wisdom dictates to use the major Hollywood actors to promote the film, but Universal instead went to the left field by updating the poster of Cosette in the new poster.

Isabelle Allen

A year ago 10-year old Isabelle Allen was playing the lame boy in her school’s production of The Pied Piper of Hamelin. And now she’s become one of the most recognizable faces in the West … and about to explode some more in the East … as her face becomes the signature poster for years to come.

Aside from this unconventional marketing method, reports also revealed that the film’s songs were sung live on the set, as opposed to in most movie musicals where the songs are pre-recorded and the actors simply lip synch in front of the camera.

Although that allows for the performances to be more naturalistic and for the songs themselves to sound a lot less polished, it would definitely require a lot of adjusting for musical fans used to “managed songs”, but it would definitely allow a lot of people who don’t normally love big flashy musicals to get engaged in the story.

And of the many big-named stars in the latest film adaptation of Les Misérables, one under-promoted and relatively obscure name that would surface is Samantha Barks.

And how she managed to own a song that’s been adapted by so many other talents.

Proving herself to be the new Eponine.

The breakthrough performance here would be Anne Hathaway who would blow you away with her take on the song I Dreamed A Dream. And although her beauty almost always got in the way of her performance, she truly deserved to get this role. She is the latest Fantine in the long list of Fantines, regardless of what critics may say.

And the stellar acting — and singing — performances of the cast makes the film a hot contender for the Oscars.

To give voice to a novel … to give presence to the spirit … that is the enduring legacy of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, and why the words would forever be seared to every French … and given to the rest of the world

Liberté, égalité, fraternité

File:Logo de la République française.svg

About Asmartrock

N. Mark Castro is the chief political communications strategist for PT AsiaLeads, a political and communications policy-making body based in Jakarta, Indonesia. He is also the Executive Director at the Southeast Asia Consulting Group, an investment advisory company assisting clients roll out their presence for the ASEAN Economic Integration in partnership with government. The views posted here are his own and do not in any way reflect the views of the companies he represents.

Posted on January 2, 2013, in General, Music and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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