So, La Saboteuse and me have finally made it to the Forum des images. Check the thread I will be writing soon about the 1913 movie.
First, some info on the forum des images, if anybody wants to go and see for themselves: How it works is that you either get a day ticket which allows you two hours in the “salle des collections” or you get a kind of membership card that allows you two hours there per day. The latter is for free if you’re a student and/or below 25 years of age, as so many things in France. Now, two hours doesn’t seem like much, but you can easily get another two hours (actually, you get them automatically), if there are not many people around. After four hours you have to go and ask, but again, unless it’s very full, you’ll get another two hours without a lot of discussion. It helps to be able to say that you can’t just return the next day. Pro-tip: Go to ask for more time when the warning that your time runs out in five minutes pops up, not after your time has actually run out. Now, if you’re planning to watch a long movie there, then I strongly recommend you to come on the afternoon of a working day. We went Friday and Saturday and on Friday we could easily stay for six hours; on Saturday we had to nearly beg for fifty minutes more to finish the 1913 movie. If anybody has any more questions about the forum des images, I’ll be happy to answer all of them.
Now for the actual 1925 movie: Have you also read it’s about five and half hours long? Well, wrong. It’s actually seven hours and 17 minutes. Yes, you’ve read that right. And don’t go to the homepage of the forum des images, because the info on the length they have there is plain wrong… The result of this is that we weren't able to see the movie entirely. We watched the first two parts entirely and had to skip a through the third and fourth. Nevertheless, I think we saw the most important bits.
The movie’s pacing is… well, changing a lot. Especially during the first two parts, it’s incredibly slow (sometimes even getting boring. I’m looking at you, Fantine’s Arrest), but it seems like somebody noticed at some point that the movie was going to be too long like this. So the last two parts are much faster; even some rather important scenes are heavily cut down. Two especially bad examples are Valjean’s confession and the Rue Plumet ambush. Nevertheless, this is one of the most complete adaptations I’ve ever seen (beaten maybe by the Italian ’64 miniseries). It relies heavily on amazing imagery and they seem to have taken Bayard’s illustrations as references. I can’t count the amount of times when a scene would look pretty much exactly like an illustration (Valjean in front of the sleeping bishop, Valjean arriving in Digne, Fantine’s death, Javert’s suicide...). Valjean and the bishop are two people who stand out for their amazing facial expressions. Javert also gets his moments, but he sometimes feels exaggerated. I found Cosette and Éponine bland at best, Fantine on the other hand managed to surprise me quite a bit. I expected a typical silent movie diva and of course her gestures and expressions are a bit exaggerated, but she nevertheless manages quite well to make her character interesting. Apart from that… I actually find it difficult to judge the acting, because it all feels like so much overacting. But these were worth a mention…
I’ll start with a few things I didn’t like:
-Fantine doesn’t get to sell her teeth
-Why does the movie think it’s necessary to inform us that long hair was considered important for an 1820s woman?
-No coffin escape
-Thénardier’s trap is incredibly cut down, missing quite a bit of important and interesting dialogue.
-Javert already leaves while Valjean gets Marius to his grandfather
-Valjean’s confession is just too short.
I don’t want to write a full recap (unless somebody wants one), but let me just re-tell a couple of great moments:
-There’s the scene with the bishop and the condemned man: The condemned man sits to the left, turning away from Myriel, who stands on the right, looking at him. Between them, the faint picture of a guillotine appears. Then Myriel raises his hand to bless (?) the condemned man and the guillotine is replaced by the much stronger picture of a cross.
-Valjean arrives in Digne wearing clothing exactly as described in the book, down to holes at the knees, a patch at the elbow and a silver anchor that keeps his shirt closed
-Valjean’s arrival in Digne includes both inns, the peasant, the jail and the dog.
-I have reasons to assume the very long and very detailed prison scenes were actually shot in Toulon (at the time the buildings of the bagne were still standing). These scenes are the best depiction of the bagne in any Les Mis film.
-The adaptation takes Hugo’s comparisons of the mind to the sky to a more literal level and inner turmoil is often illustrated with pictures of clouds/storms etc.
-They’ve made the young Madame Thénardier look like someone you’d entrust with your child without taking the brutality out of the older version.
-Valjean gets to save the two children from the fire.
-Yes, Marianne, this movie is actually shot in Montreuil-sur-Mer. There’s the mayor’s office, the main square with its two churches and one street that features rather often. Some shots from around the citadel could also well be Montreuil-sur-Mer for real. Check La Saboteuse’s tumblr for a few pictures. I didn’t dare take more photos of the movie, because we were sitting in clear view of the front desk…http://prudencepaccard.tumblr.com/post/ ... n-the-1925http://prudencepaccard.tumblr.com/post/ ... irst-photo
-The movie includes the fact that Fauchelevent considered Madeleine his ruin.
-One of the best „Tempête sous un crâne”-scenes ever. Including hallucinations, filmed metaphors and what not.
-All three convict witnesses. Valjean proves he knows them as he does in the book. All three manage to get some characterization despite only about 30 seconds screen time each.
-Valjean’s hair goes white during the trial
-Valjean escapes from the jail and there is a nice little continuity nod towards a solitary cell in Toulon.
-I would never have thought that this could happen, but I’m actually going to mention Madame Victurnien for being an amazing actress. The expression she wears when watching Valjean being led through the streets of Montreuil…
- This scene after Valjean’s escape from Montreuil: An eagle flies through the sky. The sky darkens with storm clouds, the eagle gets shot down. On the ground, we see it lying on a French flag among countless bodies.
-One of the best little Cosettes ever. She actually gets some character and she and Valjean make quite the double act.
-Gillenormand. Just Gillenormand. Cool actor and cool portrayal (including la Manon and his insistence that while he could still father a child, her children are not from him)
-The establishing scene with Gillenormand and little Marius sums up their relationship pretty well. Gillenormand seems harsh, but all Marius has to do is cry to get everything he wants
-The cadène scene. And it’s amazingly well done. There's the old woman with the little boy, the guy eating black break and a very short shot of the black guy "who could maybe compare chains"...
-Thénardier’s prison escape
-Le Cabuc. And he’s actually Claquesous.
Pretty much everything I haven’t mentioned is exactly like it should be according to the book (or it's something we had to skip). This movie deserves all the praise it gets. If you have any chance of watching the full version, go for it.
Once again, if you have more questions, feel free to ask.