There’s a grief that can’t be spoken, there’s a pain goes on and on – 評《孤星淚》 / Review of Les Misérables

Earlier this year, we heard the great news that Les Misérables is going to the silver screen this Christmas. As an avid fan, I can’t wait to see the up-to-date incarnation of this masterpiece, until…

We heard the casting. Okay, Hugh Jackman had been performing musicals and snag a Tony’s with his performance as a gay performer, so not to worry. Ditto to Amanda Seyfried, who was on the cast of Mama Mia’s movie, they both should handle the singing well. But Anne Hathaway as Fantine? Russell Crowe as Javert? And “who-the-hell-is-that-guy” as Marius? To say I am worried was an understatement the size of an Airbus 380.

But the teasers turned out okay. Hathaway came through well through her singing part presented, so was the rest of the cast. And the trailer in late November seemed even better. So, I went into the movie house last week with part trepidation, part excitement and still a little bit of worry, and watch the movie in its full glory. And glory it is.

Cosette
Cosette (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A faithful revisit
The story of Les Misérables probably need no more introduction to musicals aficionados, but here it is anyway: Jean Valjean, an ex-convict fugitive guilty of stealing bread, reformed businessman and Mayor, attempted to save Fantine, an ex-worker in his factory forced in to prostitution from destitute. While Fantine didn’t survive the ordeal, her daughter, Corsette, was saved. On the other hand, lawman Javert was hot on Valjean’s tail to bring him to justice. In the eve of the Paris Uprising of 1832, young revolutionist Marius fell irretrievably in love with Cosette, while Valjean contemplate exile to avoid capture from Javert…

The movie is essentially a movie edition of the fabled musical, which is fabulous in setting the mood for us to enjoy the acting and singing. Paris in its glory and filth, Valjean’s factory, the barricades, all beautifully rendered. The fighting scenes are well produced to give you the sense of being in the action. All songs are included, and while there are some changes to the lyrics and some are being shuffled within the scenes, the libretto is essentially the same as the musical. One new song was added, right after Valjean picked up Cosette from the Thénardiers. Acting-wise, the cast performed well, as what you can expect from a big budget history movie. The story line was basically the same as the musical, no surprises there. And then, there’s the singing…

A pleasant surprise
And the cast surprised me, their overall performance were very good. That the cast sang their part on set, instead of pre-recorded in a sound studio then played on set, required them to immerse fully into the song’s mood. It makes for a genuine performance, and the effect shows on most of the main characters’ signature songs, very emotional numbers that highlight the struggle they face.

One of the biggest highlight came from Hathaway. While her role as Fantine was important yet short, her singing was exceptionally well, especially on “I Dreamed A Dream”, which she sang the song in one take with so much emotions, it brought tears to eyes and sniffles to the audience. Hathaway had transformed in recent years, and her performance earlier this year in “One Day”, “The Dark Knight Rises”, and now “Les Misérables”, gave me a lot more confidence in her acting.

Hugh Jackman did not disappoint. While his voice is lower in tone from the musical actors, he still performed well. His performance of “Bring Him Home” was as good as the stage performances of the musical I heard so far. On the other hand, Russell Crowe fall short. While he got the stronger beat songs of Javert well enough, but his character’s show piece tunes like “Stars” and “Javert’s Suicide” was not up to similar pieces for the other main characters.

Sasha Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as Thénardiers were hilarious, nasty and disgusting, as they should be. Their singing/acting are top notch, and since they had worked before in “Sweeney Todd”, the synergy was there.

Of the younger cast, Seyfried as Cosette and Eddie Redmayne as Marius were suitable combination of the lovebirds. I especially like Seyfried, as beautiful as she was as Fantine’s daughter and sang like an angel. Redmayne’s performance of “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables” moved a lot of the audience to tears. Their duet of “A Heart Full of Love” was like a breeze of fresh air, breaking the tension of revolution, if only for just a moment.

Aaron Tveit as Enjolras was very good too, not too exaggerated in uplifting songs like “Do You Hear the People Sing”, “Red and Black” or “One Day More”, unlike some of the actors playing the same role in the musical. Samantha Barks played Eponine in the Les Misérables 25th Anniversary Concert, and was reprising the role in her first movie role here. Her singing was very well, and she gave us a feisty Eponine with a bit more feminine touch than the usual tomboy look.

Even the smaller roles were well cast. Daniel Huttlestone, who was in the London cast, reprise his role as Gavorche and put up a well-liked performance, often chiming in when the revolutionaries sang. Colm Wilkinson, the original Valjean in the first London cast, had a cameo as the Bishop of Digne, the man who turn Valjean’s bitterness to the world into struggle for good and charity. He was wonderful as usual.

In short, the movie was a beautifully sung rendition of Les Misérables.

For the wretched on the earth, there is a flame that never dies
Les Misérables always hold a special spot in me. Maybe it was because of the Paris Uprising resembling so much of the 1989 Chinese Democratic movement. Some of us still remember our sense of belonging in the social movement back then, and the tragic crackdown, which effects made the China we have now.

So, it was with mix feelings that I came out of the theatre. I enjoyed the movie much. I contemplate the fact that after the Paris Uprising, it took 16 years until the second French Revolution, which overthrown the Orleans Monarchy of Louis Philippe and created the Second Republic of France. How long will China had its own second movement, after twenty three years? Maybe more? I have no answer.

Next Tuesday, Hong Kong people will take to the streets once again to oppose a lying government that is indifference to poverty and hardship. Are we marching to change, or are we stepping into our graves?

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?

—————————–

年初收到《孤星淚》將會登上大銀幕。作為多年粉絲,當然十分雀躍,但演員名單確定時,心情當下冷了半截…

Hugh Jackman (曉治積曼)一直有音樂劇的表演,亦因為他曾以飾演音樂劇 The Boy From Oz 中Peter Allen一角面而贏得東尼獎最佳男主角,可以放心。Amanda Seyfried(雅曼達施菲)亦曾演出音樂劇改編的歌舞片Mamma Mia,相信問題不大。但Anne Hathaway(安妮夏菲維)?Russell Crowe(羅素高爾)?「阿Marius你係邊位?」(演Marius的是誰呀?)實在令人十分擔心。

可幸,預告片感覺尚好,一眾影星的歌唱部份都十分討好。話雖如此,但踏進電影院時感覺還是有點保留的。結果…

等待是值得的,收穫亦十分豐富。

忠實演繹
《孤星淚》的主角Jean Valjean(曉治積曼飾)因偷竊麵包以救濟姪兒而入獄十九年,假釋後隱姓埋名,搖身一變成為老闆、市長。他的前員工Fantine(安妮夏菲維飾)淪落風塵,Valjean知道她距死不遠,主動承諾照顧她的女兒Cosette,代價是警察Javert(羅素高爾飾)識穿Valjean的過去,開始一個追、兩個逃的逃亡旅程。九年後在巴黎,已長大成人的Cosette(雅曼達施菲飾)與年輕革命份子Marius(Eddie Redmayne飾)一見鐘情,私定終身。在巴黎市民即將再發動革命的前夕,Javert終於與Valjean再度碰頭…前途未明,大家的命運會如何發展?

音樂劇改編其實不容易。要如何保持音樂劇原本的脈絡,而把電影感帶進劇情中,本來已經不容易。要找到可以演譯歌曲而不失原作風味更難。而目標是《孤星淚》就更難。監製Cameron Mackintosh、導演Tom Hardy把上述的一一做到了。從場景重現一八三二年起義前的巴黎、貧民窟、革命最前線,每方面的製作十分認真。正因如此,需要關心的只是歌唱部份。

有驚有喜
其實,一如上文所言,雖然一眾演員在預告的表現不俗,但他們始終不是全職音樂劇演員,所以唱功與原版、現役演員比較自然有距離。但製作群有一個決定,令這方面的短處有所減輕,甚至出現超水準表現。

導演選擇以現場收音錄製歌唱部份,而非時前錄製再在現場播音配合演員演出,免去演員即場配嘴形的需要,令他們盡量投入演出。同時,因為編導似乎有意識地修改了部份場口的唱法,令一些歌曲的情感表達力加強不少。

這效果的最佳例子,非安妮夏菲維飾演的Fantine所唱的《I Dream A Dream》莫屬。那一幕一個鏡頭直落,她由疲憊、身心受辱,情感崩潰,再進一步對現況感到憤怒,最後感到絕望。夏菲維唱到中途更一度近乎泣不成聲,但全曲情感表現洽到好處,甚至比原版Fantine(Patti LuPone)更到位。其他主要角色亦有同類表現,如Eddie Redmayne的《Empty Chairs and Empty Tables》、飾演Eponine的Samantha Barks唱的《On My Own》,以至曉治積曼多首交代Valjean内心交戰的歌曲等。要知道,演苦情戲時哭泣,不是最難;唱歌,亦然。哭泣時演戲、唱歌,而能同時兼顧,要求實在極高。這次嘗試,成功了。

相比之下,羅素高爾的表現則最不合格。Javert比較強勢的場口,他的表現還可以,但到角色的主要心理戲,如《Stars》和《Javert’s Suicide》,他便明顯應付不了唱功的要求,實在令我想先行去死。(笑) 相比之下,Sasha Cohen和Helena Bonham Carter演的Thénardiers比原版含蓄,但滑稽不減。

其他年輕演員的表現則比較平均地好,雖然整體而言有「唔夠氣」的情況。Eddie Redmayer本業是莎劇演員,他和雅曼達施菲合唱的《A Heart Full of Love》對比原版最少有七成。Aaron Tveit演的Enjorlas比其他版本收斂,在激昂的大合唱如《Red and Black》、《Do You Hear The People Sing?》中,感覺不搶鏡,很好。

For the wretched on the earth, there is a flame that never dies
《孤星淚》於我而言,從來與六四劃上等號。相似的地方太多。

所以,離開戲院之時,心情複雜。貫穿故事的巴黎起義被鎮壓之後,要歷經十六年才再有第二次法國革命,推翻由拿破侖的復辟。我們的變天呢,要等到多少年?

遠的不說,明天我們要去反抗一個騙子政權。我們會開創新的未來,還是一路走進墳墓呢?

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?

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