by liberal japonicus
I mentioned that I was taking my oldest daughter to see Les Miz (the movie of the musical). It premiered here in Japan on Friday the 21st, and we were going to see it on Saturday, but it was cold and raining, so we actually went this morning. In looking up stuff, I see that, for some strange reason, the movie opened 4 days earlier here in Japan than in the US Christmas Day opening tomorrow, though I don't think I need to include a spoiler warning...
Some videos and other stuff below the fold
I'm sure a lot of you are aware of the anecdote that relates why they call him 'the voice of God', but in case you don't, (and there are several versions of this floating around) when they brought the musical to New York, Colm Wilkinson, a Canadian-Irish tenor was to stay in the role of Jean Valjean and faced some opposition from the Actor's Equity, which wanted the cast to be all Americans. While they were trying to sort that out, rehearsals were going on, with Trevor Nunn telling the cast that the whole musical was about God and spirituality. Wilkinson got approved, after Cameron Mackintosh refused to open unless Wilkinson was cast. So finally, after this long wait, the cast got to hear him perform 'Bring him home', and when he finished, there was this jaw-dropping silence as everyone was paralyzed by amazement, and Nunn said 'you see, I told you, this musical is about God', and someone then said, 'you didn't tell us you'd hired Him for the part'.
When I saw the posters, I thought that Russell Crowe was a person I could imagine as Jean Valjean Inspector Javert (I just saw that I wrote Jean Valjean twice, I'm not sure if I can imagine Crowe as Valjean), but because I imagined Jean Valjean to be a bigger man (in keeping with the strength that was part of the plot), I wasn't sure about Hugh Jackman, but he really did the role well. Russell Crowe's singing was good, but it didn't seem like the usual type of voice you hear in a musical, but I wonder if he's really a tenor and had to drop down to baritone/bass. The two younger women in the roles of Cosette and Eponine (Amanda Seyfried and Samantha Barks) were fantastic. Anne Hathaway's Fantine was well acted, but her I Dreamed a Dream was so raw with emotion that I didn't appreciate how good she sang until the end when she reappears to Jean Valjean, and why I thought that is the actual topic of this post. First, this next clip explains a number of interesting things about the movie.
The film was amazing, and I don't want to make this sound like the recent criticism of the movie Lincoln, because the movie gave me unalloyed pleasure, but it underlined something I have often thought of musicals and the world created by them. As the second clip points out, they felt that they had to create visuals that would be as realistic as possible and I think they were very successful, almost too successful. the tooth pulling scene, though short, gave me a feeling that I usually don't have at musicals, and even though the dental prosthetics for that were only visible for a short amount of time, it really left me queasy, as did the costuming and make-up of Anne Hathaway and the other prostitutes. Yet that realism didn't make it to the barricade scene, so we didn't see anything like you see with the first scene in Saving Private Ryan (for which I'm glad mind you).
It is, I suppose, a great musical tradition, going back to the comsumptive Mimi singing her last aria with her dying breath in La Boheme, to have the music not reflect the physical condition. So when the movie works so hard to make everything else realistic, the costumes, the sets, the make-up, it accentuates that gap between a musical and real life.
The video also discusses how they did the soundtrack. Rather than pre-record the songs and then do the film, the actors were fitted with earpieces and hooked up to a pianist playing the score while following them, which was then replaced by the orchestra.
At any rate,this made the music follow the singers rather than the singers following the music. This created another level of seamlessness that was almost too much. I say almost because this time, it was so striking, i couldn't help notice it, but if this becomes the new standard, I suppose that it won't be so marked.
I also assume they also can plug in auto-tune, which made everyone sing in tune. Don't know what I think about that, it seems like a cheat, but if I could find a way to better play my horn in tune, I'd take it in a new york second.
Still, the fact that a spoiler warning at the top seems ironic hints at the idea that a musical operates in a very different place and if, between your holidays treats and chores, you want to give your own ideas, please do.