The Resource For Musicals



Les Miserables Forum


Reply to topic  [ 12 posts ] 
Favorite and Least Favorite Aspects of the Movie 
Author Message
Broadway Legend
Broadway Legend

Joined: Sat Sep 29, 2007 1:06 pm
Posts: 849
Post Favorite and Least Favorite Aspects of the Movie
Now that most of us are familiar with the movie inside and out, why don’t we indulge in some unrestrained emotional expression, both positive and negative? What aspects of the movie do you like and dislike the most?

Here are mine…


Favorites

The Acting
This category includes the live singing, the casting… every aspect of the movie that contributes to the actors’ bringing their characters to life. My favorite acting performances are Hugh Jackman’s, Anne Hathaway’s and Eddie Redmayne’s, but really, everyone puts his or her heart and soul into the movie. No performance rings false or feels phoned in, Even Russell Crowe’s shortcomings as Javert have to do with character interpretation and vocal limits, not any lack of dramatic skill.

I’m incredibly grateful for the use of live singing that allows, in Eddie Redmayne’s words, “the spontaneity of normal film acting,” and I’m incredibly grateful that the cast consists of actors, not singers. By that, I don’t mean I’m glad the leads are film actors instead of theatre people: if they were all excellent theatre actors, I’d say the same thing. I mean (a) I’m glad the movie doesn’t include any pop singers, but more than that, (b) that no one was cast just for their voice, or for their looks for that matter. Every person onscreen creates a character that I can believe in.


The Atmosphere
I’ve probably said it a hundred times already, but I love the movie’s raw, gritty realism. At first it startled me, because it gets uglier than any stage production does, but now I adore it. Valjean’s dilapidated look as a convict… the diseased beggars and corpses in the mud and rain in ATEOTD… “Lovely Ladies” played not for sex appeal or comic relief but made appropriately grotesque and nightmarish… the sheer darkness of Fantine’s downfall and aversion to holy heck of the “delicately beautiful dying woman” stereotype… the Thénardiers’ filthy, disgusting inn… the brutal, bloody barricade battles… the sewage…

I don’t think any of this was guaranteed. After all, the “realism” of film as a medium didn’t stop the Phantom movie from ridiculously downplaying the Phantom’s deformity to “avoid alienating the audience,” or the RENT movie’s double standard of Angel looking bad when he’s dying but Mimi still looking so pretty in her near-death scene. Back when this movie was first announced and it seemed likely that we’d get Taylor Swift as Éponine, Nick Jonas as Marius, etc, I thought a prettified atmosphere was inevitable, because you can’t plug teenybopper pop stars into a gritty, realistic period drama. But the finished movie isn’t afraid to make people squirm. Yet when we need beauty (e.g. Marius and Cosette’s love scenes, Valjean’s transcendent death scene), we get it. AND the movie achieves its grit without resorting to frantic tempos, constant yelling, or making the characters ultra angry and aggressive! Honestly, I don’t dislike the 25th Ann. Tour, but for all its claims of fresh new rawness and realism, it hasn’t been fully successful in reaching that goal. Hooper and co. get it right!


The Love for the Source Material
William Nicholson didn’t need to go back to the novel as much as he did when writing the screenplay. It would have been easy to just base the whole thing on the musical’s libretto, nothing more. But no, he, Hooper and co. went and fleshed out the libretto by adding a thousand details from Hugo! Fantine’s tooth-selling, M. Gillenormand, Marius saving the barricade by threatening to blow it up, Éponine taking the bullet for him, Enjolras and Grantaire’s side-by-side death, Gavroche as more than just “the cute kid who dies,” Valjean and Cosette’s relationship emphasized... honestly, DID some of the passionate Hugophiles who post here and on Abaisse serve as creative consultants?

Not only that, but there’s a real sense of love for the stage version! The filmmakers didn’t need to people the ensemble with so many stage production veterans… or cast Colm as the Bishop… or go back to the OFC and the OLC previews to find fresh approaches to certain segments (e.g. restoring IDAD and “Stars” to their original placements)… or have any shout-outs whatsoever to iconic stage images (e.g. Enjolras’s death-pose). Both when I first read the screenplay and when I saw the actual movie, I was amazed by how much the filmmakers seemed to care about doing justice to the source!


Least Favorites

The Cuts
For years I’ve heard Hugophiles complain that the musical feels more like a montage of plot points than a fully fleshed-out story, but I never, ever agreed… until I saw the movie. The loss of “Dog Eats Dog” is tolerable (though I’d love to see what Sacha would have done with it), but why, oh why is a plot-forwarding scene like “Attack on Rue Plumet” reduced to a messy little fragment? For that matter, why must we lose Grantaire’s “Drink With Me” solo? (His choosing to die with Enjolras would have so much more impact if we had the earlier cynicism for contrast!) Or the ending of the “Confrontation,” for that matter? And whose bright idea was it to cut Marius’s line “…who was it brought me here from the barricade?” from “Every Day”? Of all the brief lines that could have been cut to save time, why did they pick one that conveys an important plot point? I only hope we get an extended edition DVD some time in the near future.


The Mixed Quality of the Singing
I probably sound like a hypocrite by writing this after my previous posts on the subject. I’ve always been so willing to overlook the cast’s vocal shortcomings and always the first to defend the movie’s understated, less “pretty” and more acting-oriented musical style. But… *sigh*… my feelings are complex. It’s probably very telling when a longtime fan of the stage version wishes the filmmakers had kept their original plan and replaced the recitatives with spoken dialogue! I don’t feel that way anymore, but I did when I first saw the movie, because the singing was just so unmelodic in places! I wouldn’t trade the high standard of acting for all the vocal gold on earth, but still, a part of me wishes the score were performed with the consistently lush, beautiful singing I’m used to hearing onstage and on recordings!


Javert
I don’t agree 100% with Quique that Javet may as well have been cut from the movie, but still, one of the most iconic antagonists of both literature and musical theatre becomes a very underwhelming presence onscreen. Partly this owes to Russell Crowe’s soft rock singing style in a role that cries out for a solid theatre-style baritone, but that wouldn’t matter much if only he conveyed more of the fierce determination and ultimate torment associated with the character. I don’t inherently mind the idea of a “humanized” Javert, but “humanized” or not, I’d still like to see a dogged, unshakeable inspector who eventually has a tremendous psychological breakdown, not “just a cop doing his job” who has a mild, quiet breakdown. Worse than that, the cause of his breakdown is muddled – the lyrics still revolve around Valjean, but the visuals, not to mention Russell’s interviews, imply that it’s just as much if not more about the fall of the barricades.

Russell’s acting is good, but the effect is underwhelming. That said, it doesn’t upset me too much. For all its reputation as a “19th century version of The Fugitive,” Les Mis has never really revolved around Valjean running from Javert: it’s about Valjean and social injustice, with Javert as one aspect thereof. I like that the movie presents it as such, instead of overemphasizing the cat-and-mouse element. But I still wish Javert made more of an impact.


Those are my feelings. What are some of yours?


Last edited by Vanessa20 on Sun Feb 24, 2013 9:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Feb 18, 2013 4:43 pm
Profile
Supporting Player
Supporting Player

Joined: Tue Mar 06, 2012 10:13 pm
Posts: 131
Location: Los Angeles
Current Obsession: Les Miserables
Main Role: Performer
Post Re: Favorite and Least Favorite Aspects of the Movie
I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVED Jackman's acting, everything about Eddy Redmayne and everything about Anne Hathaway.

I HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATED everything about Russel Crowe. His interpretation, his singing, his acting, EVERYTHING. Now I realize that, like Quique said, that the "Humanized" interpretation isn't necessarily the actors' faults but even ignoring that I thought his performance SUCKED.

_________________
Colin Tidwell


Mon Feb 18, 2013 11:43 pm
Profile
Broadway Legend
Broadway Legend

Joined: Sat Sep 29, 2007 1:06 pm
Posts: 849
Post Re: Favorite and Least Favorite Aspects of the Movie
lowlsnail wrote:
Now I realize that, like Quique said, that the "Humanized" interpretation isn't necessarily the actors' faults


Agreed... though it's not necessarily NOT their faults either... Russell has specifically said that he didn't like the character of Javert when he saw the stage version... and the distress at the barricade/pinning the medal on Gavroche was his idea, it's not in the script.

Just felt like saying that. I respect him as an actor, but only respectfully tolerate his Javert.


Tue Feb 19, 2013 12:12 am
Profile
Fresh Face
Fresh Face

Joined: Fri Jan 11, 2013 3:53 am
Posts: 5
Location: Kyoto, Japan
Main Role: Fan
Post Re: Favorite and Least Favorite Aspects of the Movie
My first post!

Seeing this movie two months ago was my first exposure to Les Miserables. Hadn't read the book in high school; hadn't seen the stage production. Somehow this important part of Western culture had slipped right past me all these years!

Vanessa, I must disagree on the movie's atmosphere. It's a little too cartoonish for my tastes; it continually reminded me that I was watching an adaptation of a musical more than I was seeing a story being told. Which is fine; it is a musical first and foremost, and Hugo's story second, but having recently seen the 1998 film -- I'm really getting into this story! -- I liked its more realistic sets, filmed right on the streets and villages of the Czech Republic. (The only flaw in those sets was that they evidently couldn't find an alleyway narrow enough to be 1830s Paris, so the barricade didn't look very imposing. That, and how that film ended far too abruptly.)

Maybe what I'm really hankering for is that non-exaggerated live-action movie with the vocal songs of the stage production in the background. [-o<


Tue Feb 19, 2013 4:56 am
Profile
Fresh Face
Fresh Face

Joined: Mon Feb 25, 2013 2:32 pm
Posts: 7
Post Re: Favorite and Least Favorite Aspects of the Movie
If you notice, you won't catch Quast smiling during the TAC. You won't see Norm Lewis smiling during the 25th AC. Russell Crowe smiles, laughs, and goes soft when he pins his medal on Gavroche. I feel like he did a different interpretation of Javert, and it was not one I liked.


Sat Mar 02, 2013 10:19 am
Profile
Fresh Face
Fresh Face

Joined: Mon Sep 24, 2012 11:25 am
Posts: 14
Post Re: Favorite and Least Favorite Aspects of the Movie
The acting was definitely one of my favourite parts. While a lot of the singing may not have been completely perfect, you had some of the very best actors like Jackman putting all they could into their parts acting wise, while Hathaway was obviously brilliant too. Theater actors are brilliant of course, but it's great to see the take on it from movie actors in a different environment.

On the cast, I liked a lot of the younger/newer members to film. That ranges from Tveit, Barks and Huttlestone who were all brilliant in their roles to a lot of the students. While a lot were limited in what they did get to sing, when they were on the screen their singing was close to perfect and they put all they could into their parts. It's clear a lot of them know their parts so well and have so much experience with them.

On the downside, the cuts were annoying. I can adjust to them now that I've watched it a few times, but on the first time you couldn't help but notice major ones like ABC Cafe, Attack on Rue Plumet etc. A lot of the cuts were necessary and I can understand them, but some just shouldn't be there and almost made it feel awkward and slightly rushed at times. Anyone would be able to see that the ABC Cafe had large chunks removed from it.

Some of the camera close-ups got over the top too. Valjean's soliloquoy was an example of something that went too over the top with it, although there were instances when it worked and the general shooting of the film throughout was excellent with some brilliant shots so it's not a major complaint.


Sat Mar 02, 2013 5:48 pm
Profile
Supporting Player
Supporting Player
User avatar

Joined: Sun Mar 03, 2013 12:13 am
Posts: 119
Main Role: Director
Post Re: Favorite and Least Favorite Aspects of the Movie
What I liked...hm. Well, obviously Hathaway, who absolutely tore it to pieces and made every minute of her screen time absolutely worthwhile. Adored Tveit (though he had precious little to work with, especially with the cuts), and on the whole I thought the barricade scenes from start to finished were extremely well-done. I also appreciated how they re-worked the runaway cart, mirroring the book more closely making it less of an over-hyped non-event as it is in the play (though losing the incidental music for yet another instrumental "Look Down" was a disappointment). A few of the lyric changes and song shufflings worked in the show's favor.


What I didn't...um, everything else? But seriously, I'll try to keep it brief.
a) Acting - I thought for the most part the acting was uniformly mediocre. Redmayne and Barks were almost entirely unremarkable in their roles, and except for the ones noted above (and Seyfreid, who I liked) no one made a real impression on me. Jackman and Crowe I thought were both weak, though they both suffered immensely from being totally unsuited to their characters (I heard someone say they should've been switched around, and I think that would've been a great idea. Crowe's rougher and more mellow voice is more naturally suited to Valjean (as is his more hulking demeanor and soft features) and Jackman's sharper and more trained voice fits much better with Javert).

b) Interpretations of characters- Bugged the heck out of me. Javert is the obvious example (poor Crowe is really giving it his all and delivering an actually quite good performance- just a shame Hooper didn't tell him it's frankly the wrong interpretation), but Marius is weakened as well by being much more headstrong in the film, actively jarring with his flighty, more romantic lyrics. And then the Thenardiers...my goodness. Not only did they completely lose their menace through the film (emphasized by the loss of "Dog Eats Dog", which is crucial to his character) and then be casually rewritten to be comedic con artists whose entire arc is based around payback for a single con, they're also rendered almost completely extraneous to the film itself, serving basically as plot devices to get Cosette ferried around places. They're among the most complex characters in the book and the show, and to see them reduced to this is infuriating.

c) The look/feel of the film- I think Les Miserables is a lot more stylized than people give it credit for, and the trend of recent productions to skew towards 'realism' unfortunately passed here as well. In truth, the show has always had one foot in the intimate and another in the melodramatic, and works at its best when you emphasize both those aspects (it's why Quast is so well-loved as Javert- he totally gets the over-the-top nature of certain points while still conveying a very personal and 'real' sense in both his soliloquies). The film completely discards any notion of style or melodrama and as such actively jars with the music and feel of the show itself. The reorchestrations point to this as well, and it's absolutely frustrating to lose any of the rock elements that used to be in place (my biggest loss was the absence of the electric guitar in "Javert's Intervention"- that siren-like wail set behind Quast's determination is one of the highlights of the CSR).

d) The direction- was absolutely awful from start to finish. This did not feel like a movie, it felt like a TV miniseries. Shot in constant close-ups with a lot of hand-held work and very little variance in style, this was just a very ugly movie to look at. It looked cheap (even though it likely wasn't), it felt claustrophobic, and it made the few 'big' moments feel completely out of place (or the more stylized bits like "Master of the House" feel like a different movie all-together). There was no real musicality to any of the direction, either (and Les Miserables is a show that I think really needs a musical touch to really work effectively). And then the entire idea of live singing is such a bad decision in so many ways that it probably warrants a separate paragraph entirely on how bad an idea it was.




Phew...so that was a bit of a rant. Sorry about that.


Sun Mar 03, 2013 3:48 am
Profile WWW
Fresh Face
Fresh Face

Joined: Mon Sep 24, 2012 11:25 am
Posts: 14
Post Re: Favorite and Least Favorite Aspects of the Movie
Have to be honest and say I really disagree with a lot of your dislikes in there.

Firstly, while the acting part is your opinion, there's a lot I just don't think is correct at all. Jackman and Crowe would have not worked being switched around. Vocally, it would be terrible. Crowe was able to do most of Javert's stuff, but it's clear he wouldn't be suited to the upper range at all. His BHH, as well as some of his other high notes would probably be quite horrible. Jackman's wasn't perfect, but he was at least capable of singing it. Looks wise, he may have been a bit young but I think he was perfect for the start and close to spot on for the 1823 section. Criticism of Crowe is fair enough in some parts with the acting, although I thought Jackman's was fantastic. Showed how good an actor he is for me.

Crowe's characterisation wasn't perfect but is nowhere as bad as you're saying it is. I felt Crowe was often very reserved and not over the top with his portrayal and it worked for a movie. They're two different mediums and had someone whose over the top portrayal done it the same in the movie as they do in the stage show, it would have probably ended up with a more comedic look. Crowe wasn't perfect, but I much preferred the way he took on the role compared to someone who would go over the top, especially when Javert isn't an over the top character at all.

Your dislike of the orchestration is your opinion, but I really enjoyed it myself. There was a lot of new stuff to be found in there and I enjoyed listening to it myself. Not every version is the same and I think the movie obviously wanted to put their own stamp on it.

Some of the close-ups were off putting but I don't get your obvious dislike for the live singing. It was obviously the most sensible way to go. It meant the vocals sounded a lot more raw and personal to listen to, and meant that the actors could change depending on what they felt necessary on set. Les Mis is a show where so many characters are important to another, and it wouldn't have worked had they pre-recorded it before they went on set, especially when the location and other performers can determine how an actor wants to take a scene. Honestly, having it not sung live would be like watching the stage show without live singing for me, only not as extreme. It would just feel too fake.

Not flaming you at all as it's your opinion and there is some stuff in there I agree with and it's a well thought out post, but some of it I just disagree with or think is too harsh.


Sun Mar 03, 2013 1:30 pm
Profile
Supporting Player
Supporting Player
User avatar

Joined: Sun Mar 03, 2013 12:13 am
Posts: 119
Main Role: Director
Post Re: Favorite and Least Favorite Aspects of the Movie
24601 wrote:
Jackman and Crowe would have not worked being switched around. Vocally, it would be terrible. Crowe was able to do most of Javert's stuff, but it's clear he wouldn't be suited to the upper range at all. His BHH, as well as some of his other high notes would probably be quite horrible. Jackman's wasn't perfect, but he was at least capable of singing it.


Yeah, had they stuck with the original ranges Crowe would've been awful as Valjean. But if they adjusted the piece to suit his voice more naturally (as they should've done already with Javert- his best stuff is when he's an octave lower than normal) I think we might've gotten a very affecting performance from him. Certainly a bass/baritone version of "Bring Him Home" with that mellow tone of voice...with the right kind of direction, it could really work wonders.

Quote:
Crowe's characterisation wasn't perfect but is nowhere as bad as you're saying it is. I felt Crowe was often very reserved and not over the top with his portrayal and it worked for a movie.


The central difference between Crowe's take on the role and most other performers is that his Javert is much less sure of himself and his actions- there's a lot of conflict and doubt going on underneath with him, and while that would probably be a very valid take in another adaptation, here it just jars severely with what he sings. Part of the whole point of Javert as a character is how firm and unchanging he is in his beliefs- he feels he knows what is right and almost refuses to see another way. Which is the tragedy of his arc- he's so unflinching that, when presented with such unexpected compassion from Valjean, he's unable to cope with the change that he sees no other way out than suicide. Crow gave a very complex and nuanced performance, but it was ultimately the wrong interpretation for Javert- or at least, it was for this Javert.

Quote:
Some of the close-ups were off putting but I don't get your obvious dislike for the live singing. It was obviously the most sensible way to go. It meant the vocals sounded a lot more raw and personal to listen to, and meant that the actors could change depending on what they felt necessary on set.


Okay, I have a lot of issues with the live singing thing that I honestly don't really know where to begin. Maybe I should start by dispelling a couple of the presumed advantages-

Quote:
Les Mis is a show where so many characters are important to another, and it wouldn't have worked had they pre-recorded it before they went on set, especially when the location and other performers can determine how an actor wants to take a scene.


I'd be ready to believe that, except that this doesn't explain why countless film musicals of the past have worked extremely well without needing any live vocals (too many examples to name, but the most notable ones to me are Jesus Christ Superstar and Fiddler on the Roof, both of which were shot almost entirely on location and feature some tremendously fine acting).

I think a further issue with this argument is that it presumes actors are hamstrung by previous decisions towards vocals, when, at least from what I've seen, it tends to work in their favor to separate the two factors- film is first and foremost a visual medium, and film acting primarily has to take advantage of that. It's much easier for an actor to focus on their visual presence when their audio work has mostly been taken care of, and weaker singers (like, say...Crowe) don't have that to worry about (lip-synching is a lot easier than actual singing, after all).

Quote:
It would just feel too fake.


This I just don't get. It's not only a movie, it's one where people sing instead of talk. I think realism checked out the door a long time ago. ;)

(beyond that, though, the idea that dubbing is intrinsically 'fake' is also a bit off-putting given that it's such a routine practice even for non-musical films (dialogue lines sometimes have to be re-dubbed in post-production if the on-set recording suffered in some way).

And then live singing brings with it a host of problems- the main one is that it necessitates fewer cuts in a song (so that the song isn't audibly broken up) and I presume is what forced the insane amount of closeups and A/B cutting through almost all the songs. And the way they did it also places the actors in control of the tempos, which is...well, I'll just quote myself from another forum on this one (using Jackman's performance "What Have I Done" as an example):

Flynn wrote:
When you're working with a character as established as Valjean, you have to use what's given to you in the text to help nurture your performance- in the case of the musical, you have to analyze what the song is doing and what that communicates about the character and his emotions so you can best deliver that communication. With "What Have I Done", the tempo is very important to the kind of catharsis Valjean is going through- especially with all the shifts in tone and tempo it takes throughout the soliloquy (fluctuating between intense, contemplative, angry, etc.). Messing about with any one part of that established tempo wrecks the written development of the character and hurts the actor's portrayal (plus if everyone's doing that, who's watching the pacing? The songs in a sung-through musical are paced the way they are for a reason- wrecking tempos means you're screwing with that planned pacing, which is kinda important in a 3-hour show).


I do think there are advantages to live singing (the technique and the challenges it enforced did wonders to help Hathaway's performance), but on the whole the technical challenges it imposes and just isn't a very cinematic way to do things.

Quote:
Not flaming you at all as it's your opinion and there is some stuff in there I agree with and it's a well thought out post, but some of it I just disagree with or think is too harsh.


Oh, absolutely, and please don't take my ramblings as any kind of 'flaming' either. Nothing like a good friendly debate. :)


Sun Mar 03, 2013 2:41 pm
Profile WWW
Fresh Face
Fresh Face

Joined: Mon Feb 25, 2013 2:32 pm
Posts: 7
Post Re: Favorite and Least Favorite Aspects of the Movie
I'm asking people to think with the mindset of a newcomer to Les Mis- (you were all new once)

My sister called me to ask me to clarify a scene in the movie. In the movie, Valjean says "Look down Javert, he's standing in his grave!" Afterwards, Valjean carries Marius past Javert who holds a gun to Valjean's back and says, "One more step and you die". Valjean ignores the warning and proceeds, and Javert cannot bring himself to shoot. He throws his gun in the sewer, sings, and kills himself.

In the show, Valjean says, "Look down, Javert, he's standing in his grave!" Followed by both of them singing at the same time,
"Make way, Javert! There is a life to save!"
"Take him Valjean- before I change my mind. I will be waiting, 2-4-6-0-1."

My sister was confused why Javert, who had just set a man free without killing him was singing about his confusion towards another man sparing his life. If he was confused, why would he reciprocate? Additionally she said, he should have been singing about how he should not have let Valjean go.

When he tells Valjean to leave, but come back and that he will be waiting, at least it makes sense that Javert is reflecting on what Valjean did for him earlier on.

Do I just have a confused sister? Or did anyone else notice this too?
That said, I am not against all the cuts in movie. I didn't like the ABC Café cuts, but I was never a big fan of "The Attack on Rue Plumet", so I could deal with that.

Additionally, I felt some changes in the movie that related more towards the book improved the plot, such as Eponine deflecting a shot aimed at Marius instead of just hobbling towards the barricade with the letter, or Javert insisting that he be fired after "mistaking" M. Madeleine for a convict rather than just noting that the convict who looks like Valjean happens to be going to court just minutes after Valjean lifts the cart up.


Sun Mar 03, 2013 2:44 pm
Profile
Fresh Face
Fresh Face

Joined: Mon Sep 24, 2012 11:25 am
Posts: 14
Post Re: Favorite and Least Favorite Aspects of the Movie
Flynn wrote:
24601 wrote:
Jackman and Crowe would have not worked being switched around. Vocally, it would be terrible. Crowe was able to do most of Javert's stuff, but it's clear he wouldn't be suited to the upper range at all. His BHH, as well as some of his other high notes would probably be quite horrible. Jackman's wasn't perfect, but he was at least capable of singing it.


Yeah, had they stuck with the original ranges Crowe would've been awful as Valjean. But if they adjusted the piece to suit his voice more naturally (as they should've done already with Javert- his best stuff is when he's an octave lower than normal) I think we might've gotten a very affecting performance from him. Certainly a bass/baritone version of "Bring Him Home" with that mellow tone of voice...with the right kind of direction, it could really work wonders.

Quote:
Crowe's characterisation wasn't perfect but is nowhere as bad as you're saying it is. I felt Crowe was often very reserved and not over the top with his portrayal and it worked for a movie.


The central difference between Crowe's take on the role and most other performers is that his Javert is much less sure of himself and his actions- there's a lot of conflict and doubt going on underneath with him, and while that would probably be a very valid take in another adaptation, here it just jars severely with what he sings. Part of the whole point of Javert as a character is how firm and unchanging he is in his beliefs- he feels he knows what is right and almost refuses to see another way. Which is the tragedy of his arc- he's so unflinching that, when presented with such unexpected compassion from Valjean, he's unable to cope with the change that he sees no other way out than suicide. Crow gave a very complex and nuanced performance, but it was ultimately the wrong interpretation for Javert- or at least, it was for this Javert.

Quote:
Some of the close-ups were off putting but I don't get your obvious dislike for the live singing. It was obviously the most sensible way to go. It meant the vocals sounded a lot more raw and personal to listen to, and meant that the actors could change depending on what they felt necessary on set.


Okay, I have a lot of issues with the live singing thing that I honestly don't really know where to begin. Maybe I should start by dispelling a couple of the presumed advantages-

Quote:
Les Mis is a show where so many characters are important to another, and it wouldn't have worked had they pre-recorded it before they went on set, especially when the location and other performers can determine how an actor wants to take a scene.


I'd be ready to believe that, except that this doesn't explain why countless film musicals of the past have worked extremely well without needing any live vocals (too many examples to name, but the most notable ones to me are Jesus Christ Superstar and Fiddler on the Roof, both of which were shot almost entirely on location and feature some tremendously fine acting).

I think a further issue with this argument is that it presumes actors are hamstrung by previous decisions towards vocals, when, at least from what I've seen, it tends to work in their favor to separate the two factors- film is first and foremost a visual medium, and film acting primarily has to take advantage of that. It's much easier for an actor to focus on their visual presence when their audio work has mostly been taken care of, and weaker singers (like, say...Crowe) don't have that to worry about (lip-synching is a lot easier than actual singing, after all).

Quote:
It would just feel too fake.


This I just don't get. It's not only a movie, it's one where people sing instead of talk. I think realism checked out the door a long time ago. ;)

(beyond that, though, the idea that dubbing is intrinsically 'fake' is also a bit off-putting given that it's such a routine practice even for non-musical films (dialogue lines sometimes have to be re-dubbed in post-production if the on-set recording suffered in some way).

And then live singing brings with it a host of problems- the main one is that it necessitates fewer cuts in a song (so that the song isn't audibly broken up) and I presume is what forced the insane amount of closeups and A/B cutting through almost all the songs. And the way they did it also places the actors in control of the tempos, which is...well, I'll just quote myself from another forum on this one (using Jackman's performance "What Have I Done" as an example):

Flynn wrote:
When you're working with a character as established as Valjean, you have to use what's given to you in the text to help nurture your performance- in the case of the musical, you have to analyze what the song is doing and what that communicates about the character and his emotions so you can best deliver that communication. With "What Have I Done", the tempo is very important to the kind of catharsis Valjean is going through- especially with all the shifts in tone and tempo it takes throughout the soliloquy (fluctuating between intense, contemplative, angry, etc.). Messing about with any one part of that established tempo wrecks the written development of the character and hurts the actor's portrayal (plus if everyone's doing that, who's watching the pacing? The songs in a sung-through musical are paced the way they are for a reason- wrecking tempos means you're screwing with that planned pacing, which is kinda important in a 3-hour show).


I do think there are advantages to live singing (the technique and the challenges it enforced did wonders to help Hathaway's performance), but on the whole the technical challenges it imposes and just isn't a very cinematic way to do things.

Quote:
Not flaming you at all as it's your opinion and there is some stuff in there I agree with and it's a well thought out post, but some of it I just disagree with or think is too harsh.


Oh, absolutely, and please don't take my ramblings as any kind of 'flaming' either. Nothing like a good friendly debate. :)


I felt that Crowe's Javert was fairly convincing in his ways for the most part. Many will then cite pinning the medal on Gavroche, however by then he'd been released by Valjean so I think it's perfectly natural for his doubts to have developed by this points over what he has done. For the earlier points in the musical though, I didn't see a lot of self doubt in him.

I understand that lip synching can work, but that doesn't mean that it's the best way to go at all. Yes, it could have worked with lip synching, but I felt that the live singing gave a far more gritty and raw feel to the film which something like Les Mis needs. Was the singing perfect? No. What it was though was very good and apart from maybe Crowe, I didn't see anyone who looked uncomfortable with the live singing aspect. Barks is used to it already from theater, while many of the others adjusted naturally as actors. If someone wasn't capable of doing both at all then there'd have to be questions with their singing. If cast members had struggled with it then fair enough, but pretty much all of them looked comfortable in the format.

I don't particularly agree that lip synching is easier either. On a basic level, yes, but parts of Les Mis are so complicated and have so many characters weaving in and out that it can become difficult to do well. I've been in the show before as a student and trying to do the barricades in rehearsals when lip synching to rest our voices was an absolute nightmare. It would only work if cast members had been uncomfortable doing both, and it would be more needed for the difficult vocal songs, but BHH is arguably the most difficult one vocally and Jackman's probably lay more in the singing instead of the acting to be honest. Plus other big solos like IDAD and OMO worked with it. When you've got a completely sung through show, and this mostly stayed like that, I think it then becomes more necessary to go with the live format because the dialogue is nearly all singing, and lip synching lots of dialogue would be awkward.

Fake wasn't the best word when I said it. Perhaps more 'disconnected' would be a better term to use, although I know not everyone would feel the same.


Mon Mar 04, 2013 3:42 pm
Profile
Supporting Player
Supporting Player
User avatar

Joined: Sun Mar 03, 2013 12:13 am
Posts: 119
Main Role: Director
Post Re: Favorite and Least Favorite Aspects of the Movie
I know it seems like it would work better with live singing, but given that past films like Jesus Christ Superstar have used playback and worked exceptionally well with it, I don't think that's the case (JCS is sung-through as well, after all, shot entirely on location, and while not-quite as musically complex as Les Miserables, does feature a lot of the trouble points you mention).

At any rate, live singing still forces a lot of constraints on the direction, and I would argue is what made it noticeably weaker in the end- the overuse of closeup, the abundance of single takes (most all the solos were shot in one take, and almost all the duets were done with shot-reverse-shot), etc. It kept the film from being able to do anything with its visuals, which really hampered it as a whole.


Mon Mar 04, 2013 4:05 pm
Profile WWW
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Reply to topic   [ 12 posts ] 



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group.