Alethea & Athena (double_dear) wrote,
Alethea & Athena

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The miserables

Today we finally got around to seeing a production of Les Miserables. We went with the 2012 one with Hugh Jackman, because, as the most recent, it seemed like the most accessible. I mean, as far as the literal definition of accessible, Amazon Prime had several different versions we could access, but, like...the metaphorical "accessible." Or something.

We had a bunch of thoughts. The main one was, "Yup, this movie sure is long." A lot of the dialogue, for lack of a more accurate word, seemed disjointed, like they were telling a story, and the characters all knew stuff, but they weren't necessarily letting us in on it, and they weren't necessarily talking to each other so much as at each other, the latter of which was one of our biggest complaints about Frozen.

The strongest example of this was in the song where they talk about red and black, for whatever reason. It seemed like these colors had some deep significance, which they might have mentioned, or shown, but not in a way that had us going, "Ohhh, I get it, red like..." whatever was red. Later, I was like, "I think the revolutionaries' flag is red and the government's uniforms are black, so maybe...?" But it was waaaay too subtle for us to pick up on. I guess if the movie suffers from the same malady as all the other billions of remakes going on right now, it probably assumed that people had seen previous versions where the colors were more obviously associated with things? This is one of the problems I have with remakes--they're not as accessible (in that metaphorical sense I mentioned earlier) to people who are coming to the story for the first time. ...In retrospect, I should have realized that could be a problem, but I think it helped us to stay attentive to have familiar faces to look at.

Speaking of which! We didn't know Eddie Redmayne was in it! Awwww, Newt Scamander, you're the cutest.

But back to the red and black song. That's also the song where Marius and his friend appear to be having an argument? And his friend is all, "Look, we're fighting a revolution, okay!" and Marius was all, "But I'm in love, don't you GET it!?!?!?" And I was all, "I'm...not following the conversation. At all."

So we were like, "Uuuugh," and also like, "Maybe you're weirdo sing-talking wouldn't be so annoying if you'd bother to rhyme every so often!" ...Clearly we were not meant for the Arts. I do think the sing-talking would have been better if it rhymed. But here's the thing! And you probably all already know this, but we did not until after, like, we told Mom, and she was like, "Yeah. Duh." and we were like, "You don't know! Artistes like to do artistique things!" Like name their English-speaking hecka long musicals with French titles since they're based off of hecka-longer French novels. But Mom was like, "Hello, the title is French. Obviously it was originally in French." And that's the thing we didn't know! We did not realize that it was originally written in French.

AND THAT'S THE THING! Once we found that out, we were like, "Ooooohhhh, translators." That explains everything. I mean, we're mostly familiar with translations from Japanese to English (with some miiinor familiarity with certain French projects that have been translated into English), but from what we do know, it is not uncommon for translators to miss things, like, for example, if there had been a mention of red and black in the script somewhere before, maybe it got adapted out for rhyming or poetry or whatever, because the English adaptation writer didn't think it was that important until it came up as a main theme in a song later. I don't know. Wikipedia tells me the guy who did the English version was a professional who'd been doing it for a long time. ...But we're familiar with J-E translators who have been doing it for a long time, and...

Anyway. There were a lot of other clues, too. A lot of wordings that were like, "Huh. We don't talk like that in English so much, but I've heard it a lot in Miraculous French!"

The one that really bugged me, though, and I should point out that this may or may not really be the fault of the adaptation, but it was the duet with Eponine and Marius, where they sing about the rain helping the flowers grow. I was like, "Wow, this seems like maybe it was a thing they had talked about before, or at least had been mentioned by Eponine, like in her epic solo or something, and it would be so much more touching and powerful if I could look back on my memories of this very long movie and see somewhere where they mentioned the importance of flowers to Eponine and/or Marius." ...Maybe it was in the red and black song. I had a hard time following that one.

But then we found out it was a translation, and I was like, "Oh, maybe the adaptation writer missed its significance in the earlier parts." I don't know. It's a thing we've noticed that happens with translations, but that doesn't mean it happened here. We may never know, because we do not know enough French to watch the show in French. Wikipedia also tells us the original French version was only two hours long, so already I think it's better.

That's NOT to say that I was just waiting for it to end. We have the attention spans of five-year-olds, you all know that. Once a movie goes past two hours, we get antsy no matter how good it is. But we did have the foresight to take an intermission after the Act I finale. (We weren't sure at what point that was going to be, since we'd never seen the show before, but when "One Day More" was over, we were like, "If that's not it, it's close enough.")

But speaking of losing things in translation! Wikipedia also tells me the French title of "I Dreamed a Dream" translates to "I dreamed of another life." See, the English title isn't bad, but it doesn't tell you as much as the French one. On the other hand, the other life stuff was in the rest of the lyrics, since it's what the whole song was about. But other details may have been missed. It's just why we like to consume stories in their original language when we can (says the woman who's been reading translations of Jules Verne for the last several weeks, but with novels, it's much easier to include the pertinent information, while musicals have to fit melodies and know, suddenly I'm thinking of all the song-speak where they just kind of crammed a bunch of words in and you're not sure if there was supposed to be a rhythm or something...and that was not something we thought about when we were like, "Oohhh, translation," but...).

Anyway. Our other main complaint was that during all the songs, they just seemed to have constant extreme closeups. So the character would be walking forward, or just standing there, and the camera would just be fixed about six inches from their faces...except for when it pulled out to show us all that Jean Valjean had ever known, which apparently was this beautiful, ornate church, even though he'd just gotten out of a nineteen-year stint in prison. What I'm saying is, the thing about movies, as opposed to real life, is that, at least we think, you can set the scene and the visuals and everything so that not just the words, but the whole picture illustrates the message being conveyed. And I kind of wished they did that more. Maybe the director didn't want to copy previous versions (I haven't seen any, so I don't know), but when Marius was singing about his friends who were gone with the empty tables and empty chairs, the least they could have done was shown some tables and chairs, but I thought it would be really cool if during the first half of the lyric where he sings about how they used to be there, it did one of those composite things where they're there in the tavern with him, and then when he gets to the part about empty tables and chairs, they fade away and we see the reality and we're all sad with him.

There was the one time they had the visuals match. The revolutionaries came and picked up Eponine's body and carried her off to reveal that the broken furniture of the barricade that she had been lying on was some kind of a signboard, and what we could see that it said was "mort," and we were like, "Reeeeeal subtle." Sigh.

Anyway. Now that I'm done complaining, there was actually a lot of really great work in the movie! We felt like the acting and singing was really good (other than the sing-talking, which we generally do not care for--not that it was bad as far as quality, just that we think it's not favorable in general). Helena Bonham Carter was amazing. I hated her character, but you're supposed to. Eddie Redmayne was super adorable. Young Cosette was super cute. And the music was phenomenal. The orchestrations were just amazing. ...There were a couple of songs that I think could have benefited from a different mood (nobody sounded very angry when they were supposedly singing the songs of angry men, for example), but even when I was bored by the sing-talking, I just listened to the beautiful orchestra, and I was like, "Ah, this is nice." I cried many many times.

And that is our rant about Les Miserables. The short version is this: we are not cut out for the Arts.

Today I'm thankful for getting some culture, being confident that I'm not a failure as a human being if I am not compatible with Culture, getting to sell some fish to CJ, the amazing breakfast we had (we ordered from the Original Pancake House!), and the amazing dinner we had (because we deliberately ordered enough for two meals).
Tags: les miserables

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