Television broadcasters and movie reviewers recently commented on the length of movies released during the holiday season.
During the time of Old Hollywood, movies like Gone with the Wind and Sound of Music featured an intermission. The audience had a short break.
Beginning in the 1980s, movies lost something. They lost minutes. They lost audiences, and audiences lost patience for a story to get to the point.
In the age of iMedia, instant gratification destroys good story lines for a lesser plot.
But, all is not lost.
Movies like Les Misérables, Anna Karenina and The Hobbit return to the tradition of epic storytelling.
I saw Les Misérables—the long running musical that originated in the 1980s and based on Victor Hugo’s book. I attended the play in London and twice in Columbia, South Carolina. I watched the tenth anniversary VHS, and 2012’s twenty-fifth anniversary.
I learned the lines to the songs, and cried with my grandmother through every rendition. I had high expectations when my husband took me to see the film.
Fireworks shot through the height of my expectations. I cried, I laughed and held on to every song and line. Director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) did not stray far from the musical’s story line. The movie allowed me to see parts of the story that were difficult to picture when watching the play.
For example, I was impressed with the building of the barricade, and the tension when the students prepare for battle and then face the decision to fight without the backing of the people.
Hooper focuses in on the actor and actress’ faces to make you feel as if you are in France. The singing is softer than in the play, but the actors are not in front of a large audience. When the factory women corner Fantine (Anne Hathaway), they almost whisper sing. The way they sing the lines, you believe in their hate and gossip.
Hathaway’s performance will break your heart.
I also enjoyed Hugh Jackman and Samantha Barks, who also sang as Eponine in the twenty-fifth anniversary concert.
Eddie Redmayne‘s performance made Marius a man and believable. I have never seen a Marius with whom I was impressed, except for Michael Ball. Too often Marius is portrayed as too soft and weakened by instantly falling in love. It’s almost as if the Revolution is no longer important to him. While he questions his role in the Revolution in the lyrics, he is still—for lack of a better word—weaker.
Eddie Redmayne took the movie home. He picked up where Hathaway left off in the supporting cast. His rendition of Empty Chairs at Empty Tables makes you feel like you’ve lost your best friends in battle or another tragedy.
Why do we still read and watch epics?