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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危機解密 – 科幻為副,人生為先

八月四日更新:鳴謝網友指出,主角是駐阿富汗美軍,而非伊拉克,特此更正。

作為科幻片,Source Code(港譯:危機解密)在人生處世上的著墨很多,故事又不落俗套,著實令作為觀眾的我一新耳目。

劇情是如此開展的:主角Colter Stevens上尉是一位在伊拉克阿富汗前線執行任務的直升機師。他忽然在前往芝加哥的列車上醒來,面對著素未謀面的Christina Warrens以及完全陌生的環境。當Colter在無所適從之下跑進洗手間時,竟然發現鏡中的並非自己,而是另一個男子的臉。未幾,火車發生爆炸。滿以為主角慘死,然後倒序之前的事,但觀眾會發現Colter再次醒來,場景變成有如太空艙的環境。

外面,Colleen Goodwin上尉正與在艙內的Colter通話。Colter由Colleen口中得知自己已經不在伊拉克前線,而是為一個叫Source Code的系統進行任務,需要利用人的短暫記憶(每次只有八分鐘),讓Colter以火車上的其中一位乘客Sean Fentress(剛好是Christina的同伴)的身份嘗試找出爆炸的真兇,從而阻止兇手再發動進一步的恐怖襲擊。在一次又一次回到爆炸前的火車上,Colter不但解開爆炸的真相,亦同意醒覺自身的情況,對自己的生命重新定位。

在劇情上,不難用偷天情緣以及東方快車謀殺案做比較,因為橋段上有相似之處(Time Loop/Whodunit)。但共通點亦只有這些而已。Colleen和她的上司Dr. Rutledge不斷催促Colter,最初亦不提供資料,令觀眾與Colter一般不知所措。每次八分鐘的段落重覆使用下,慢慢的讓主角理解事情的來龍去脈。雖然每次進入場景的起步點都相同,但拍攝手法上有小許分別,而每次Colter的著眼點和行動都不同,所以只有五個場景(火車、火車站、控制室、實驗艙、芝加哥Millennium Park),但感覺每次都新鮮。

因為每次只有八分鐘,而在現實時序中炸彈魔的下一個襲擊亦步步逼近,在氣氛上形成壓力。導演做到九十分鐘全無冷場,值得一讚。另外,主角不斷回到火車上,從乘客的言行,以及對自身情況的逐步理解,領悟到生命中重要的事情。這在Colter致電老父表白思念之情一幕,特別明顯。同時,導演把這一個分支,與故事中的愛情線相互配合,令Colter對Christina發生興趣,再每次加深瞭解,亦加深Christina原本已存在對Sean的好感,處理手法相當討好。

從世界觀而言,劇本的設定並非全無破綻,但整體上並沒有show stopper,亦能以平衡宇宙的理論自圓其說,合格有餘。由於文戲居多,特技只能有限制地使用,並未影響故事流向。故事到最後留下一條很小的伏線,可能會有續集(雖然個人意願並不希望如此)。

角色方面,Jake Gyllenhaal表現出色,最少三分一場次是他的獨腳戲。作為悲劇英雄,他表現出的悲涼,以及在無可再差的形勢下盡力,演活了影片的tag line:Make every minute count。Vera Farmiga由公事公辦到同情主角,個人認為演得比女主角Michelle Monaghan的love interest角色更好。Jeffrey Wright的瘋狂科學家角色是劇情必須,但並不討好。

個人評分:90/100

《測試》HP PhotoSmart B110試用

早前從HP在的blogger event後接過Photosmart B110 all-in-one打印機,當然要試用一番。

這部打印機標榜完全無線打印,除了內置無線網絡支援外,更加上HP自行架設的遠端打印技術ePrint wireless,可以經由電郵發送文件、圖片至打印侍服器,再傳送到待機中的打印機進行打印。每部打印機都有專屬的電郵地址,用作ePrint收件(必要時可重設)。這功能對於Mac用家會有更大的效用,因為Apple開發的AirPrint功能將會對應使用ePrint的打印機,只等Apple把功能開放(當然已使用Mac OSX 10.6.5的用家可以用以下 辦法去啟用AirPrint)。

外形方整,入紙和出紙口都在前方,所佔的空間不多,比起之前家中的Epson all-in-one打印機更少。因為機頂平坦,現在成了另外一個枱面。在空間和實用性而言討好。記憶咭方面支援SD、MMC和Memory Stick DUO、算是全面了。

實際使用又如何呢?因為時間關係,我並未安裝OSX 10.6.5,故此未及試用AirPrint的功能,但因為早前曾離港,所以亦試用ePrint的遠端打印,結果回家便看見打印出來的相片。對於偶爾亦有文件需要打印的我而言,可以直接打印回家,不再需要在公家打印機打印,可是十分實用。其他基本用途如打印、影印、掃描,都表現得中規中矩,作為入門的噴墨打印機而言完全合格。另外,HP同時推出了對應的iOS universal app(名叫HP iPrint)可直接無線操作掃描,並選擇使用PDF或jpg存檔。

面板除了電源和Wifi開關之外,還有螢幕和四個輕觸選項。可惜的是,在這型號並未設有輕觸式螢幕,試用時我便常笨笨地直接在螢幕按…介面簡約,並設有Apps可供用家下載,但現在只是美國有最多apps,香港只有原廠預載的五個:Dreamworks(打印Dreamworks動畫主題的填色畫、面具、摺紙等)、Yahoo Daily Digest(美國Yahoo的新聞)、HP Quick Forms(預載的各類表格,如五線譜、單行紙、月曆,甚至迷宮遊戲)、數獨和Tabbloid(打印RSS擇要),以及之後推出的Disney Family(和Dreamworks一般,但以狄士尼為主題)。個人認為Quick Forms對一般用家用途最大,而Disney Family和Dreamworks亦會受家庭用户歡迎。

實際操作可有點小缺點。起動時間要足一分鐘,以噴墨打印機而言有點慢。打印速度一般,但操作的力度頗大,機身令我的flat pack枱面搖晃…有點誇張。

總體而言,B110是一部全面的入門級無線打印機。想來,就是HP沒有送出這部打印機給我試用,相信亦會自掏腰包把它買下來呢。

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