Movie for the Evening
This version of “Les Miserables” surpasses the classic tag and elevates itself to being a template for all generations of film enthusiasts and film makers. It requires patience and engagement since there is much detail and a long runtime but its true to Victor Hugo’s book, evoking France of the early 1800’s.
Jean Valjean, played by Harry Baur, is a convict just released from prison. His crime of stealing a loaf of bread and sentenced to five years hard labor is extended to 19 years due to escape attempts. He is very strong, saves a enormous statue from toppling, and lifts a cart to save a man from being crushed. These feats give him legend status allowing his nemesis, the police inspector Javert, to successfully pursue Valjean.
The character, Jean Valjean, is lifted from the stain of his crime by the kindness of a priest, becoming a productive citizen.
Sensitive to injustice after his conversion, as mayor of a town, he befriends a poor woman, Fantine, played by the French actor Florelle. On her death bed, Jean Valjean promises to rescue her daughter, Cosette, from a ruthless couple. Cosette, played by Josseline Gael (who, herself, later lead a notorious life), is wonderful as an abused, destitute child.
The social realities of this period in France is carefully drawn by Hugo leading to the adopting of his book as a national treasure and the catalyst to change shown in the film as a uprising in Paris of Republican minded young adults determined to live free.