Les Misérables (1995)

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Movie Info

Utilizing an all-star French cast, lavish production values, and a lush score created by three composers, Claude Lelouch's three-hour-long epic reworks Victor Hugo's classic tale and proves that it is still relevant for late-20th century audiences. Hugo's protagonist Jean Valjean, who gets out of jail -- imprisoned for stealing bread -- and finds his attempts to lead a better life constantly thwarted by an obsessive police inspector, is represented by Fortin (Jean Paul Belmondo), a turn-of-the-century chauffeur who is sentenced to 30 years for the murder of his employer following a New Year's Eve celebration. Actually, Fortin is innocent, for his boss committed suicide, but who would listen to a lowly chauffeur? During his incarceration, Fortin's wife becomes so desperately poor that she must sell her body to the lecherous innkeeper for whom she works in order to feed her hungry family. Unable to stand the shame of her actions, the wife hangs herself, leaving her young son Fortin, Jr, to be shuffled from family to family until he is grown. As a result, young Fortin is poorly educated and cannot read; he becomes a champion prizefighter (played by Belmondo's son Paul). Back in prison, the elder Fortin engineers an escape. A betrayer thwarts his plans and in despair, Fortin also kills himself. The story jumps to 1931. By this time Fortin the prizefighter (Jean Paul Belmondo again) has left the ring, purchased a truck and has become a furniture mover. He still cannot read and therefore does not understand when people compare him to Jean Valjean, the protagonist of Hugo's Les Miserables. Ziman is a Jewish lawyer who with his beautiful ballerina wife and daughter wants to flee his opulent Parisian life when the Nazis storm the city. Ziman offers the reluctant Fortin a fortune to take him and his family to the safety of Switzerland. Fortin, however, is not interested in the money. Instead he asks that Ziman read for him a book that he purchased from a bookseller. The book is Les Miserables. In telling this multi-layered, operatic tale, Lelouch points out that Hugo's characters are archetypes for the human condition. Despite the many changes and so-called improvement wrought in the 20th century, the world will be always be populated by the good, the heroic, the cowardly, the selfless, the greedy, the lucky and the tragic. Though Lelouch utilized a stellar French cast ranging from veteran Jean Marais to Annie Girardot (a formerly popular star who made her comeback in this film and won a Cesar for her efforts), it is Jean Paul Belmondo's charismatic performance as the two Fortins that brings this beautifully photographed melodramatic tale to life.
Rating:
R (for violence, brief language and sexuality.)
Genre:
Art House & International , Classics , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
 wide
On DVD:
Runtime:
Studio:
Warner Home Video

Cast

Jean-Paul Belmondo
as Henri Fortin/Roger Fortin/Jean Valjean
Michel Boujenah
as Andre Ziman
Alessandra Martines
as Elise Ziman
Annie Girardot
as Farmer's Wife
Clémentine Célarié
as Catherine/Fantine
Rufus
as Thenardier
Ticky Holgado
as L'Addition
Salomé Lelouch
as Salomé Ziman
Philippe Khorsand
as Policeman/Javert
Salome
as La fille Ziman
Nicole Croisille
as Thenardiere 1830/1990
William Leymergie
as Toureiffel
Jean Marais
as Bishop Myriel
Micheline Presle
as The Mother Superior
Darry Cowl
as The Bookseller
Cyrielle Claire
as Countess of the Ball
Margot Abascal
as Salomé (age 18)
Jacques Bonnot
as Hoodlum
Marie Bunel
as Young Jewish Woman
Mickael Bussinger
as Young Son
Nathalie Cerda
as Young Jewish Woman
Jean-François Dérec
as Smuggler of Jura
Max Fournel
as Mayor
Maurice Mons
as Bad Neighbor
Anne-Marie Pisani
as Young Jewish Woman
Wolfgang Pissors
as Bunker Officer
Isabelle Sadoyan
as Mme. Magloire
Marie-France Santon
as Faithful Neighbor
Peter Semler
as German Officer
Guillaume Souchet
as Henri Fortin (age 9)
Antoine Duléry
as Crazy Thug
Jacques Gamblin
as Churchwarden
Pierre Vernier
as Penal Colony Leader
Sylvie Joly
as Beach Innkeeper
Robert Hossein
as Master of Ceremonies
Daniel Toscan du Plantier
as Count of Villeneuve
Salome
as La fille Ziman
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Critic Reviews for Les Misérables

All Critics (20) | Top Critics (9)

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | March 25, 2009
Variety
Top Critic

The family reads the Hugo novel aloud to him while they travel together, and apparently they all come to realize how much their lives are like great literature.

Full Review… | January 15, 2008
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

It's part of the magic Lelouch has worked that his story-of-all-stories theme matches the catch-all inclusiveness of his old-fashioned celluloid showmanship.

Full Review… | June 23, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Aspectacular-looking film with those great settings and costumes that are a hallmark of French period films.

Full Review… | August 15, 2002
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

Imperfect, but beguiling.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Washington Post
Top Critic

The film is a wealth of incident: boxing matches, prison escapes, overland chases, a train robbery, high society, low crimes.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Les Misérables

½

A great adaption of Les Miserable to WW2.

Anthony Valletta
Anthony Valletta

Super Reviewer

This movie was awesome, had my eyes glued to the tv and i ended up staying up until 5 am to watch it.

Derek Corsini
Derek Corsini

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