TELEVISION RELEASE: JANUARY 7, 2001 (FOX FAMILY CHANNEL)Director Josée Dayan, screenwriter Didier Decoin (JAKOB THE LIAR), and star Gérard Depardieu had previously collaborated on an adaptation of THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO and a biopic on BALZAC. They combined their talents again for this fine version of Victor Hugo's classic novel. LES MISÉRABLES has been adapted for the screen many times but rarely with such fidelity to the novel. Jean Valjean (Depardieu) is imprisoned at a young age for stealing bread. In prison, the young man hardens into bitterness under the watchful, unforgiving eye of Javert (John Malkovich), a lawman who doesn't believe in redemption. Javert continues to hound Valjean, even after the convict leaves prison and changes his ways. Valjean devotes his life to protecting the orphaned daughter of a young woman whose life he inadvertently helped destroy. This adaptation is appropriately down and dirty, effectively portraying the dehumanizing grimness of French peasant life before the revolution. The film features strong performances from Depardieu and the lovely Virginie Ledoyen as Cosette, but its real virtue is in Malkovich's performance as the misguided Javert. Malkovich captures the humanity of the character, making him as tragic a figure, in his own way, as Valjean.