17.1.13

How 'Les Miserable' Will Change Musicals Forever

Les Misérable; as a film maker, has always been one of those 'must-see's that everyone from my banker to my barber obligingly suggests I see upon the mention of my profession, to which I mentally add to the list of films to work through as if it was a grocery list for an Indian supermarket. A musical on both stage and celluloid that I figured would have already been ruined for me by Susan Boyle and Glee and the likes. When I saw that it was all being recorded live, suddenly it became interesting and after experiencing it; I know for definite that film musicals can never be the same again...


Although musicals having the songs sung 'live' is really nothing new in movies, as it was done in some of the first 'talkies' when they hadn’t perfected lip-syncing, but with the combination of it being fully sung-through with little to no separate dialogue, completely changes the way we look at a film musical and the way it effects us.

Originally, quintessential Hollywood, drawing up mental similarities with 'The Wizard of Oz' or 'The Sound of Music', has never let music dominate a film. It has been its backbone and it was what sold tickets and video tapes yes, but like most things in the 21st century, it would need to change to survive and it seems the British have bet them to it.

After more than half a century of the 'dialogue-song-pretend that song never happened' I have to admit that a sung-through film, generally more common with stage performances, is pretty hilarious the first few minutes. Any waft of immersion breaking and you'll find yourself wondering why don’t they just 'say it' instead.

Why this film is going to give rebirth to the musical genre in particular though is all down to the acting.

There's really no actor that I can brown-nose that isn’t already on a pile of critic's flapping tongues at the moment. Anne Hathaway in particular, as disappointingly short as her role is, will single handedly lead the new wave of live musicals. Her ability to cry and suffer all while singing the iconic 'I Dreamed a Dream' in one long take is bound to make up for her lack of rom-com award winners. I've heard the song dozens of times but found out that I never truly listened until it tasted like Catwoman's tears.

I don’t think I've ever felt music in visual medias have such an effect. The songs in Les Miserable aren’t just catchy jingles, they’re spiritual outbursts. You hear the words more than you ever would if they were simply spoken and it's something that I'm going to need a second watch (and that's being optimistic) to ever truly understand what happened.