Les Misérable (2012), Film, Theatre and Me.

I don’t often go the cinema as it’s a distance away, so when I do get the chance to see a recent release, it’s at home. Last night I watched Les Misérable (2012) and I was disappointed with it. I better back up and explain why.

I have a background in film and theatre. In primary school we put on musicals at the end of each year and I later studied at WAAPA and film at ECU. I’ve worked backstage, I’ve directed, produced and edited film and I’ve seen Les Misérable performed (at the Perth Entertainment Centre, now demolished). So I have certain expectations when something like this is filmed and this version annoyed me to no end.

It was little things. Like the composition of the shots. What shots were used and weren’t. How the scenes were blocked. The vocal performances and so on. Little things and it took me a while to pinpoint what was annoying me. The director and the choices he made.

There’s a certain beat that needs to be hit with how a scene is blocked and how the shots are framed and how they’re edited together, and if you get that wrong, or even slightly off, the scene doesn’t work. For me, there were scenes that felt like that. Especially the tavern scenes. These scenes should be funny, especially with the actors they cast, but they fell flat for me and it wasn’t the performances. The actors were doing everything asked of them, but it was these little details, the choice of shots, of editing, of blocking that for me didn’t work. I kept noticing little things all the way through the movie.

Towards the end the slightly unsteady shots were annoying me as well. What I wanted to do was to gaffa tape (duct tape) the camera steady to the camera person.

Now, this isn’t to say this is a bad movie. It isn’t. I like the look of it and it was probably much better on cinema screen than watching it at home (I really think this is one of those movies that needs to be seen at the cinema for it to really come alive). It’s just, for me, it didn’t hit the mark in so many ways.

I watch movies in a different way I think to a lot of people. It’s a hangover from my film student days. I can walk into a video store and pick which films are worth seeing by looking, glancing really, at the covers alone. I used to be a pain to watch films with (some may say I still am) and I often find myself knowing what’s going to happen way before it does.

Even so, I wanted better than what I watched. I expected, I hoped for better. I hoped for a movie that would have be put down my knitting and entrance me, but this didn’t and I’m a little sad about that. Especially when there are so few movies worth watching lately. Years ago I used to be able to count on a single hand the films that you needed to see each year. Now, that figure’s dropped. We have remakes galore (some of them, like Footloose were pointless), scripts that need more work. Films that are action scenes strung together with nothing else than shots of sexualised women (Transformers). And the film industry wonders why we stay at home. Duh. Trust your writers (we know what we’re doing). Make better movies and stop giving us films that we’ve not only seen before but where the original is better than your remake. Respect the films that came before. Just because they’re ‘old’ doesn’t mean your new, shiny, sfx laden, expensive, name filled film will be better. Seriously. Your audience isn’t that stupid.

I try not to watch bad movies. I don’t want them produced or released so I don’t support them financially. When I do, it’s when they’re on TV and I’m curious to learn what is wrong/off/needs fixing so I know what not to do. This is the reason, the only reason I watched Twilight (that’s another post). There’s a lot I watch for that reason, both film and tv, and even though my current focus is on novels, my love of film, of scriptwriting and directing hasn’t been lost.