Monday, December 31, 2012

Les Miserables or Les Pommes et Oranges!

Ok. I've read the reviews and the Facebook sniping and now that I have finally seen it: LES MISERABLES - THE FILM, I can finally comment and respond. First, I saw the original London Production with Colm Wilkinson and the Broadway with him and two other guys later and I also saw it in London again on three separate occasions. So, I saw the original 7 times. I saw the prototype high school version and then directed that version in 2004. I LOVE the play. Am I clear? Now about the movie. It is a movie, a film, a motion picture ADAPTED from a Broadway pop/opera/musical. Brilliantly photographed, cleverly adapted, wonderfully cast (more on that) and beautifully acted. The controversy about the live on camera singing and Russell Crowe's performance are all pish tosh. There are many presentational, artificial musical "comedies" like CHICAGO which are adapted up front and in your face, in old school movie musical/ Broadway style but LES MIS is not that and never was. This is an emotional story with emotional songs written in a quasi pop/ opera style with an occasional nod to traditional musical comedy( The Thenardier's) So, Facebook and the net is choc-a-block with all kinds of nit picking criticism. "Russell Crowe can't sing", "they added dialogue", "songs were cut", "Amanda Seyfried has a vibrato" . People: stop!Many Broadway fans once again apply stage criticism to film. Folks, its apples and oranges. In order for this expressionisticly staged melodramatic story, with it's "popera" music to work, they had to find a way to make it realistic. Film is all about closeups and having Russell Crowe or anybody belt out those extremely difficult songs of Javert and make them both realistic and understandable would have been ludicrous. Russell Crowe is a fine actor, who took excellent direction and made you HEAR every bit of his recitative and sung lyrics. His performance was as careful and as deliberate as everybody else's. So, why all the complaints. Probably because they are some of the most ridiculously difficult songs ever written for a Broadway show. Having seen and worked on a combination of 9 productions, I can tell you most Javerts struggled with the songs. Those most successful, belted them out with big strong voices hitting fully sounded notes but always lost much intelligibility of lyrics. The director and the producer, who also produced the original show, knew that the "dialogue" for this musical was primarily recitative with some full out character songs. If you are going to be faithful, realistic and dramatic, then an adjustment had to be made to make the lyrics/ dialogue clear, audible and understandable. Dialogue and visuals, especially closeups, tell film stories. All the recitative and many of the songs were slowed down or , in some cases, quieted down, to make the word heard and understood. It was a brilliant choice. They also mixed the sound film in an uniquely different fashion. All the vocals were pushed to the front and center and the orchestrations reduced in volume much in the same way but not to the same degree that background music is used to underscore emotions and themes. This compromise succeeded because I heard lyrics that I never heard before and I know that anybody who has familiarity will have the same experience. Those with little familiarity with the show will never notice the trick . Now on the topic of vibrato, some singers have them some don't. Some are taught to use it others to lose it. It is a matter of taste. If it were such an evil, why did Billie Burke, Jeanette McDonald, Joan Baez and Buffy Sainte Marie have such successful careers. So listen folks, Broadway fans, "purists" and drama queens if you haven't seen the film be prepared to to reign in your natural prejudice that " demands" exact replication of the Broadway show. Of course, some might also, have to reign in their personal jealousy for their favorite part being ruined by those"movie" actors. Really folks, you can't replicate a live theatre experience. Film has to be accepted for what it is and how it functions as film. You can't compare apples and oranges. Oh and then, the true measure of Les Mis in any incarnation, did it make you choke up or cry. It has always affected me this way and the film did as well. I cried. It was a success. There.