PBS/BBC Les Miserables: Anybody Else Watching?

KaijuGooGoo

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Aside: I think it was not uncommon for unwed mothers seeking work in factories to place their children in (essentially) foster care, so this isn't an incredibly odd arrangement. She just chose remarkably evil fosters.
In the 1850s, my GG Grandfather was bound over to his uncle by his mother, who was struggling as a twice widowed woman with 3 children. He was supposed to work on his uncle’s farm until he turned 18, although he was able to buy off his last 2 years of labor and run off to join the Union Army.
 

Ficino

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So, episode three aired last night. I have a growing desire to see David Oyelowo (Javert) play Captain Ahab in an adaptation of Moby Dick. I also liked some of the small touches: the phrenology skull on Javert's desk, and the shot of lifting the lit street lamp by a rope to prepare us for Valjean's escape in Paris. Presumably, the original audience did not need the workings of street lamps explained.

I'm struck by the use of French in the program. All significant dialogue is of course in English, but background conversations, are not translated: the soldiers haranguing the convicts outside of the Arras courthouse, the crowd in Thernardier's inn singing Ça ira, etc. The wanted poster for Valjean is also left in French. At first I found this a little odd, but it does help to underscore that this is a French story.
 

Ficino

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Episode 4 last night. The Pontmercy/Valjean plotlines are finally coming together, which makes the story more engaging (though I was enjoying it before). The 'Chekov's gun' of Thenadier's inn sign (which shows him saving Col. Pontmercy) finally paid off, in a fine scene. I won't say much more about that, to avoid spoilers--if that concept even applies to a story like this one.

There are occasional moments when one thinks, 'you know, you could solve many of your problems if you just...' For example, why does Valjean remain in Paris once he decides to leave the convent? He is apparently very, very rich. The obvious solution would be to take his money and move somewhere that he need never be concerned about police pursuit again, somewhere beyond France's borders--say Liège or Geneva, if he wants a French-speaking area (or Montreal, Canada, if he's feeling adventurous). In a sense, though, that doesn't solve his underlying problem, the one all parents face: his 'daughter' Cosette is eventually going to leave him for her own family. The convent provided a perfect answer to that conundrum, but at too high a price for Cosette.

One thing I haven't explicitly mentioned before about this production is its color-blind casting. They seem to have picked the actors they thought would do the best job regardless of race. That's a good way to proceed in filming classic literature, unless the story itself is about racial differences, in which case other considerations apply.

Oh, and on the geek front Thenardier's eldest daughter, Éponine, is played by Erin Kellyman, who was Nest in Solo: A Star Wars Story.
 
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Ficino

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So, episode 5 (of 6) aired on Sunday. We have finally reached the uprising of 1832, which I find interesting, and the love affair between Marius and Cosette is blooming, which I find less so. Cosette’s character is particularly … flat, I guess? I don’t blame the actress, Ellie Bamber, but the differences between what a 19th-century audience wanted in a romantic heroine and what interests me. Of course, the need to cut down an immense novel into 6 hours of TV also probably has a lot to do with it.

Thénardier’s daughter Éponine (Erin Kellyman) is a more compelling character than Cosette, on the whole, though I doubt the original audience would have found her that way. There were some problems with the way she was filmed in this episode, though. There are a couple of scenes in which she is ‘hiding’ in the heavily overgrown garden of Valjean’s mansion and overhears other characters talking. But as the scenes were shot, she seems to be in plain sight. Also, though she wears appropriately raggedy clothing, her hair seems immaculate most of the time—gorgeous red curls. But, hey, it’s a romantic story on TV.

On the ‘now you’re learning, boyo,’ front, Valjean has at last decided that it’s time to leave France, though no doubt events will intervene.

I guess the answer to the question in the thread title has to be 'no.'
 

taschoene

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Yeah, they've so abridged the romance between Marius and Cosette that it's fairly pointless.

I also think they've mishandled Javert's obsession with Jean Valjean. I don't recall Javert being convinced that Valjean must be the leader of the revolutionaries, for example, and it's an odd stance to take, since we've never seen Valjean as a rebel or organizer before (mayor, yes, but against his wishes, really.)
 

Ficino

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Yeah, they've so abridged the romance between Marius and Cosette that it's fairly pointless.

I also think they've mishandled Javert's obsession with Jean Valjean. I don't recall Javert being convinced that Valjean must be the leader of the revolutionaries, for example, and it's an odd stance to take, since we've never seen Valjean as a rebel or organizer before (mayor, yes, but against his wishes, really.)
Is there any explanation in the novel of how Javert comes to be at the barricade, where he is recognized and captured? No explanation is really needed, of course--he's a policeman, so it makes sense for him to be infiltrating the rebels.
 

taschoene

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Is there any explanation in the novel of how Javert comes to be at the barricade, where he is recognized and captured? No explanation is really needed, of course--he's a policeman, so it makes sense for him to be infiltrating the rebels.
I think the first time he's even mentioned at the barricade is when Gavroche recognizes him as a policeman and he immediately admits to having come to spy on the rebels. There's no real setup for it, and nothing like Javert's monomaniacal obsession with Valjean in the book -- they just keep running across each other.
 

Ficino

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I think the first time he's even mentioned at the barricade is when Gavroche recognizes him as a policeman and he immediately admits to having come to spy on the rebels. There's no real setup for it, and nothing like Javert's monomaniacal obsession with Valjean in the book -- they just keep running across each other.
Maybe they'd watched too much Deep Space Nine--there is an episode where the renegade officer Eddington compares Sisko to Javert, claiming that Javert had pursued Valjean for twenty years for stealing a loaf of bread.
 

Ficino

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So, the final episode aired last night. From what I gather, it departed from the book in minor ways, some of it to give Javert a bit more screen time. I'm not sure why the adaptation had Valjean confess to Marius before the wedding, except perhaps to make Valjean more admirable, which wasn't really needed.

On the whole, I'm quite happy I watched it and would recommend it, warts and all. It certainly was a visually lovely production.
 
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