'Masterpiece: Les Misérables'
(Dominic West, David Oyelowo, Lily Collins, Adeel Akhtar, Josh O'Connor, Ellie Bamber, Erin Kellyman, Joseph Quinn, Enzo Cilenti, et al / 2-Disc Blu-ray / R / 2019 / PBS)
Overview: Against the backdrop of France at a time of civil unrest, this is the story of Jean Valjean, a former convict unable to escape his past life.
His future is threatened by his nemesis, the chilling prison guard Javert, who is determined to bring him to justice.
As revolution ignites on the streets of Paris, Jean Valjean begins an epic journey towards self-acceptance, redemption and love.
Blu-ray Verdict: Having just binge watched the entire new 'Les Misérables' mini-series I can honestly say that this new adaptation looks great and is very pleasing to the eye.
Sure some points of detail/style I really struggle with, such as how physically clean and healthy Fantine and her friends/colleagues (and their clothes) are during the romance with Felix and his friends.
I mean, they were fairly poor seamstresses and the way their scenes are shot in soft light and such is way too romanticized for my liking.
Also, give us more of the context: show us Fantine finding out she's pregnant as an unmarried woman, giving birth to Cosette, being subject to prejudice and discrimination before leaving Cosette with Madame Thénardier.
I mean, this wouldn't take long to do, but would add a great deal, in my humble opinion.
Also, whilst Dominic West is a great actor and performs well, the casting of him as Jean Valjean is problematic. It's absolutely crucial to the plot and the character that Jean Valjean is more than a man in terms of strength and capable of feats that are almost super-human.
Whilst West has been to the gym, he looks like that: a man that has been to the gym. He doesn't look like someone imbued with the incredible strength that Jean Valjean needs.
Personally, I don't believe it in him. He's no more physically imposing than those that surround him and this is difficult for me to get over.
Also, the cleanliness/hygiene of some sections of the film make it feel a little dated to me and too "BBC". It needs to be darker, dirtier, more realistic.
Like lose the romanticism and give us some realism, please BBC for (again, to my mind) that's how to make an adaptation of 'Les Mis' great instead of good.
Well, in for a penny and the accents and lack of French language (the odd 'Monsieur' and such feels weird) are, however, obstacles to the authenticity of the series and, for me, get in the way of the story and the context (as an aside and again for me, the race or ethnicity of the actors certainly does not get in the way).
Whilst I can understand the BBC not wanting to produce a French language show that is shown in English speaking territories with subtitles, some half decent French accents would make it feel much more real to me.
'Les Mis' is about, in, and of France, after all.
However, and playing Devil's Advocate, the story displays the power of love, kindness, and forgiveness. The power of God to change a man and the heartbreaking reality of the coldness, darkness and cruelty in the world.
Superb acting, it has to be said, by nearly everyone on screen - Adeal Akhtar and Olivia Colman are detestable scoundrels that got so deep under my skin that I wasn't sure I was watching actors! - and so emotionally gripping that it does still get, eventually, to the heart of the story. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Bonus Features of:
Les Misérables: An Introduction
The Battle of Waterloo
The Look of Les Misérables
Behind The Barricade