I’ve been in love with Les Miserables since I was a little girl and had to read the famed Victor Hugo’s novel in its native language, French. It was both a literary exercise as well as a foreign language exercise. After all, living in Algeria as a girl forces one to learn either French or Arabic – or both.
French lessons were a daily exercise, every day, two hours a day with the fiercely red-headed Madame Antoine who would speak only French to all her students who in a single classroom, ranged from age nine to sixteen, all of which who’s first language was English. Since she spoke only French to us, one could sometimes forget that she was also very fluent in Russian, Hungarian and of course, English. Once the always mischievous Roger told her to shut up, and she turned to him with glaring eyes and said, “I know this “shut up”. Go!” and she sent him to the principal. That would be the last time Roger misjudged her language skills.
I heard the music of Les Miserable for the first time back in the early 1990’s. My mother send me the 10th anniversary edition filmed in the Royal Albert Hall and I was hooked. The music was incredible, like angels singing. Here it is on youtube. It’s a couple hours long but if you’re a fan, you can play it in the background to whatever you are doing; housework, cooking:) It will elevate your spirit.
A couple of weeks ago a tribute to the music of the composers of the music of Les Miserable, Miss Saigon and others were honored at the Kennedy Center. The husband wanted to take me: it was the sweetest gift. Many of the original Broadway singers were in attendance, like the wonderful Lea Salonga, who was the character of Eponine in the Royal Hall 10th Anniversary edition so long ago. We took our friends and neighbors, Neighbors Beth and Bill, and to me – it was like listening to heaven.
At the end of the concert, the composers Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg were introduced on the stage. I had no idea they would be there. It was better than the Beatles walking on stage as a band. It was that exciting! I took out my camera and attempted a photo over my head, at the risk of incarceration by the way. The docents were on high alert. I had the wrong camera settings and no idea of what image would look like – and well, it looked like the above but I didn’t care. Monsieurs Boublil and Schonberg were there somewhere!
What does this have to do with the movie, The Fugitive? I’ve always loved that movie and as I spent Sunday relaxing and watching it once again, as it happens to play over and over as a rerun on so many stations. I think that perhaps I like it so much because the characters remind of the characters in Les Miserable. It’s similar in a way, the Harrison Ford character is an innocent man on the run, caught up in circumstances not under his control, much like Jean Valjean was in Les Miserable. He is relentlessly pursued by Tommy Lee Jones who, much like Javert, pursues Jean Valjean in spite knowing of (or sensing) Jean Valjean’s innocence of a terrible crime (only of taking bread to survive). Tommy Lee Jones confronts Harrison Ford in the sewers (once again analogous to Les Mis) and Harrison Ford (aka Richard Kimble) tells Tommy Lee Jones that he is innocent of the crime to which Tommy Lee Jones says, “I don’t care.”
It’s the core of both the movie and the novel. It gives me chills.
In the end finds that Jean Valjean is the better man and the knowledge is too much for him to handle for he is also a failed human – as we all are. Things end differently in The Fugitive than in Les Miserable. Justice finds itself in the movie – but in the great literary work of Victory Hugo, things don’t end that neatly. It’s why it’s called a tragedy.
Perhaps I love the musical so much that I analogize it to almost everything? I like to think it’s just a timeless theme, with characters brought about by the gifted hand of the author and composer.
Can you tell I love this book? I do.
Here we are all together that night. By the way, a docent took this photo of us. I was still on cloud nine when this was taken. Thanks Neighbor Beth and Bill for coming with us. We can always count on you to have a great time and to appreciate beautiful, timeless, meaningful music!
I promise to get back to more relevant things – like what in the world the boy is doing – I’m dizzy just thinking about it:)