Bravissimo Les Miz.

Jan 1, 2013 by

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Let me warn you that this review may get highly emotional as I try to find the right words to describe the experience of watching Les Miserables onscreen. I am assuming there’s really no danger of spoiling the story because the novel has been there for more than a century and the musical having been staged for decades and Lea Salonga getting immortalized on DVD twice by playing two roles for two anniversaries and the cassette recording practically telling you the story in sing-through tracks.

Ok. So how was the movie?

Beautiful. Exceptional. Haunting. Done with so much love. Done with so much care. With so much misery it’s gripping. And I’m not even French.

It’s so totally unlike Phantom of the Opera’s movie adaptation.

The actors, except Russell Crowe, were eerily perfect in playing their parts. They have succeeded in taking us with them as characters, not just as singers or actors. They sing their parts but we do not get separated from what they’re actually saying. There is so much grit and angst and misery — Victor Hugo might as well be Filipino for giving us such extreme melodrama that the world has learned to love. The actors were fantastic. They didn’t have huge voices the way we have always known Les Miz performers carry out the songs, but the screen takes us deeper into the soul of the character beyond singing. After a song, you don’t go “Oh my God, her vocal control & dynamics were perfect!” But you go “Her pain is too much to bear… Were the hell is my cleenex.”

The musical direction is mind-blowingly excellent. The arrangement of songs are tailored to suit the cinematic gravity of the performance. You could hear the details of the accompaniment, and the recurring highlight of cellos in solo parts are truly one of the film’s defining moments. It had me bawling unstoppably. I was crying so bad I felt like singing the songs myself. The transitions from one track to another are so well-stitched you’ll get surprised at its entry. I wanted so badly to give a standing ovation after each solo performance, but then I’m not forgetting I was in the cinema. The musical/auditory realism (as contributed by its mix-downs, balance & orchestration) is impeccable. The filmmakers used a revolutionary approach to musical-movie-making by recording the actors’ singing live as they are shooting it on the set. In effect, we are actually watching a raw, live performance recorded for your viewing pleasure with some musical enhancements for perfection. The experience is life-changing.

Director Tom Hooper has succeeded in bringing Les Miz to the big screen without shortchanging us, theater-goers. Hooper must be conscious in making sure that the film has an appeal both for the theater aficionados and the mainstream audience.

Les Miserables is an astounding success in my own opinion. It is a must-watch because it isn’t too often that we get to see a musical on the big screen that takes with it the same enigma of the theater experience. I hope that this film will make more people appreciate the musical theater as a godly way to affect humankind regardless of who they are or where they’re coming from.

Bravo, Les Miz. I’ll be watching you again once you open in the Philippines in January.

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