Les Miserables: Why I nearly cried with laughter!
this video on the BBC website.
Let me start at the end, with my post-film interview. Young girl shoves mike in my face and says “Men don’t normally cry do they? Did you cry in the film?” Me, “they do actually and no I didn’t”. “Why not?” “Because I thought it was shallow. I nearly cried laughing at several points but no tears." “Really, what was wrong with the film?” It told you nothing about the politics, the singing was relentless and annoying and it was overlong and boring, which is why, I presume, I saw five people leave this small screen cinema early.” “OK…...” She moved on to the 18 year old lad next to me – he agreed. I don’t know where they get their journalistic talent from these days but standards at the Beeb are certainly slipping.
So, what was wrong with this film? Sorry, but I don’t think the 'singing dialogue' thing worked. The opening scene with the ship is superb but as soon as they open their mouths it falls apart. It flattens everything out and destroys nuance. In combination with the big close-ups, you feel as if you're being assaulted with sight and sound. The storyline is also crass. Oh no, not Heathcliff again. He’s only just recovered from playing the lead role in 50 Shades of Grey. The plot clunks along like a tank, moving and turning slowly and LOUDLY.
Then there's the posh lads as revolutionaries. They were were laughable. Here comes the Bullington Club to save the working classes of Paris. I was actually pleased when they were mown down. No attempt was made to explain the underlying political context, complexity or causality. Everything’s reduced to simplistic romance, plot turns and song. Never mind the causes of poverty - all will be right with a good melody. This is why musicals are rarely art.
My only fear is that this will spawn a whole raft of musicals into films. That will drag budgets away from original work and that would make me cry.
We live in an age where deviation from the general rule that not to show your emotions is baaaad. Well, to hell with that crap. I expect good cinema to give me a transformative experience and to take me to new, unexpected places, not force-feed me sickly, sugary, scripted songfests. Pretty sure I'll be edited out as off-message!