Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Les Misérables Blu-ray Review: Bollywood Survives a Scare

Les Misérables Blu-ray Review: Two-Disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + Ultraviolet

The Movie

Bollywood survives a scare from their Hollywood counterparts. Many thought that Tom Hooper's musical would revolutionize the genre, and I thought that the Hollywood musical would be a serious contender to overtake the usual 3 hour Bollywood film packed with song and dance, despite the industry currently shedding this former self. It was not to be so.

Les Misérables does boast a welcome change to this film category. For the first time, actors were involved in a process known as live singing, where the cast sang on set with the musical accompaniments instead of at a studio after capturing the video footage. Since the acting and singing were done simultaneously, the movie showcases a faultless sense of realism, with the background noises only serving to bolster this effect.
This method is well complimented, or else only made possible by the brilliant performances of the leads. Anne Hathaway stuns audiences as Fantine, despite the short lived nature of the role and Hugh Jackman portrays Jean Valjean's moral dilemmas with persistent efficacy and verve. Even Russell Crowe's Javert the Inspector plays the hardened cop with authoritarian or even draconian principles to the utmost displeasure of the audience (it's a compliment).

However, my first dispute lies with the story and the source material. It's about a convict named Jean Valjean who serves 20 years for stealing a loaf of bread, for his sister's child. After this, he breaks parole and has Javert pursuing him, across decades and even through the revolution later in the movie. True, food was scarce at the time, but for Javert to have a bug up his ass over a loaf of bread is simply, sad. There may be more to it in the book, and even in the movie but that simple fact drowned all others.

On top of this, there were concerns about the balance between the songs and the spoken dialogue. Some songs were transcendent, such as those of Anne Hathaway's and the song prior to the revolution, which had the entire cast chiming in from various locations, interlocking their imminent destinies at the dawn of the near uprising. But in most instances, the attempt to transform ordinary conversation into melodious speech, strikes an inharmonious tune. The main culprits were Jackman and Crowe themselves, speaking normally but then raising their voices at the end of their sentences, creating a shameful result at times. In addition, the running time of 2.5 hours will test the patience of many, especially those who can't tolerate multiple songs relating to love proclamations, unrequited or otherwise.

I'm not against musicals. I enjoyed Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. That was one that got the dialogue and song into perfect equilibrium, and I guess the shorter running time helped, too. Les Misérables is by no means perfect, but it provides the occasional burst of thrill and excitement here and there along with humor gifted to us by Sacha Baren Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter. Those patient viewers with a penchant for romance should have an unblemished time, from start to finish.


Les Misérables Sacha Baren Cohen Helena Bonham Carter
The running time even took a toll on the actors.

Blu-ray Video and Audio Quality

Present in 1080p HD, there aren't too many faults to find with the video. The close-ups provide exceptionally crisp and fine details, even in the dark and gloomy scenes that occupy most of the film early on.  This only gets better as the movie moves on to a more colorful and brighter setting in the streets of Paris, illuminating the detail in a much more apparent manner. As the movie doesn't incorporate too many video tweaks (no 3D), there are no irregular video compressions that might mangle the picture. Some complained about the background sounds and the chorus drowning out the actors at certain instances but I hardly noticed it. The DTS Surround Sound enables you to pick out even slight variations in pitch and tone, much to my liking. 

Blu-ray Special Features

  • Commentary by director Tom Hooper- This bit presents Hooper's ideas on most of the singing, the technical details and even the more tumultuous times on set. 
  • Les Misérables: A Revolutionary Approach- A featurette consisting of cast and crew interviews, behind-the-scenes footage (e.g. barricade scene) and casting and production design. the feature also delves into the original musical production in West End. 
  • The Original Masterwork: Victor Hugo's Les Misérables- A look at the novel itself, with Original Produce Cameron Mackintosh and director Tom Hooper. There is a part where Hooper describes the novel as a worthy bed time story. 
  • BD Live Functionality

Blu-ray Specifications

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Original aspect ratio: 1.85:1

English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
English: DTS 5.1

English, French, Spanish

50GB Blu-ray Disc
Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD)
UV digital copy
iTunes digital copy
DVD copy
Region A 

Movie Musing | Promote your Page too