Les Miserables Movie Review: This French Film is a Stunning Take on Class Difference
Movie Reviews

Les Miserables Movie Review: This French Film is a Stunning Take on Class Difference

Les Miserables Movie Review: This is a powerful treatise on social inequality

  • Movie Name Les Miserables (French)
  • Director Ladj Ly
  • Rating
  • Rating 4/5 Stars

Rating: ****

If Victor Hugo were to see what  director  Ladj Ly  has done to his timeless classic novel Les Miserables he would either sue or wish himself dead (which he is, in any case). And both responses would be a monstrous  misreading  of  this  modernday ‘One day  in the life  of…’  interpretation of Hugo’s epic  novel on class differences  and socio-political  revolution in France.

 This version has a deep aversion to conformity. So, as far as  Ladj Ly is concerned, Victor Hugo can go fly kite. Ly gives his own stunning freaky spin to the class war. Set  in  presentday  Montfermeil, which is  Victor Hugo’s birthplace, this  deeply resentful and  implosively angry version of the original novel trails three  cops, one of them  new to the  simmering cauldron  of races  in the small French  city, as they do the rounds of the seething city just waiting to explode.

A  little  Black boy Issa (Issa Peric) triggers of a revolutionary  riot, or do I mean a riotous  revolution, when he steals a lion cub from a visiting circus. Swiftly, eclectic violent  alignments are drawn up as  the city determines to erupt into a riot.

This is a unique take on the uneasy relationship between the law enforcement agencies and the  young  cosmopolitan underdogs. The  director has an astonishing eye  for visceral  detail.Scenes  of  mounting tensions on  the  road are constructed with combustive spontaneity. The actors are unknown  but compelling faces conveying the  conflicts  with a fluency that  constantly furnishes a documentary-like feeling to the drama  of  demoniacal dissension.

The  three  principal cops are played by actors who seem to be so clued into the minds  of the law enforcers that we  forget they are acting.  Alexis Manenti is  Chris, the cop who acts  first and thinks later. His partner Gwada(Djebril Zonga )is  an African-descent  pacifist  who weeps at the end  in his Mom’s kitchen for the wrong that are done to  the poor. Ruiz  played by Damien Bonard  is the outsider struggling to keep his head afloat in a sinking mire of corruption, as the  young brigade  comprising mostly of boys  of African descent. Come out into the streets to fight. All three actors induce a sense  of immediacy  and intimacy to  the uneasy relationship that a law enforcement  agency shares  with a volatile  society.

This is a powerful treatise on social  inequality lacking  the poignancy and poetry of the  previous 2012 adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel (that too is  must-see)  but making up for those qualities by emphatically energizing the theme of inequality giving to the class conflict a dramatic force that precludes artifice.

Interestingly, both the BBC television series in 2018 and this  new  spin on Victor Hugo’s  novel did  away with the songs. This is  in keeping with the  contemporary climate. Nothing to sing and dance  about, really when hunger and poverty become the new religion.

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