By Steven Suskin
31 Mar 2013
One of the biggest films of the past months, with an emphasis on the word big, is Tom Hooper's production of Cameron Mackintosh's Les Misérables. Big as in enormous — here is a panoply of Paris, circa 1830; here is an all-star cast, headed by Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway, with Eddie Redmayne, Helena Bonham Carter and even Sacha Baron Cohen; here is a budget said to be in the $60 million neighborhood, a lovely neighborhood in which to be; here is a film that has taken in more than $430 million, thus far, since opening on Christmas day.
It is also big in terms of what it represents. This is a film version of the legendary international classic superspectacular stage musical by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg that conquered the hearts of theatregoers everywhere since initially opening on the West End in 1985. Where it received lousy reviews. And where it is still playing. The show went on to conquer the world, with monumentally successful productions in New York and elsewhere, although some viewers — myself included — have always found the thing to be somewhat lacking. But then, I self-sabotaged my first visit early in the London run by having innocently read, shortly before, a book — also called "Les Misérables" — by a long-ago Frenchman named Victor Hugo. The novel kept me fully engrossed for the month it took me to read it; the musical only seemed to slowly grind on for a month, without the high points.
Bonus features on the Blu-ray include "'Les Misérables' Singing Live," a discussion of what it's like to sing live into the camera rather than using lip-synching; "Battle at the Barricade," presenting an in-depth look at the creation and filming of the battle; "The West End Connection," featuring Cameron Mackintosh; and "'Les Misérables' on Location," which shows us — well, "Les Misérables" on location. These are in addition to the DVD bonuses, on casting the film; on the production design; on the original novel; and feature commentary by director Hooper.
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