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France 1995
Directed by
Claude Lelouch
174 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4.5 stars

Miserables, Les (1995)

Claude Lelouch's transposition of Hugo's classic 1862 novel to Vichy France can be faulted in places but it is an impressively ambitious work that attempts to draw out some of the universal themes of the story and does so with depth of intelligence yet self-aware understatement.

Jean-Paul Belmondo, at 63 as wrinkled as an elephant, is marvellous as the Jean Valjean character, reborn as Henri Fortin a former middleweight boxing champion-turned-truck driver who has agreed to aid a Jewish family in their flight from Nazi occupied France to Switzerland.

Lelouch, who wrote the script and did the photography interweaves different ideas and themes as the dual narrative threads of Hugo's novel and his film unfolds. In this respect it no doubt will help to have some familiarity with the original text, less for narrative comprehension than for an understanding of the characters. The result is both technically a masterful example of the modernisation of a classic work and a stunning achievement in its own right although it is probably more effective as a tribute to the power of literature and cinema as ways of interpreting experience rather than as moral insight per se.

 Les Misérables is rich and wonderful film that warrants its nearly 3 hour running time.




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