Wake up on June 1st like
Eat a Snickers, Enjolras. You get a little hostile when you’re hungry.
Seriously though, I have such mixed feelings about the way this scene is set up. This scene is from the barricades of the much-loved 1972 French miniseries adaptation, and it’s pretty much a microcosm of my mixed feelings towards this adaptation in general. I mean, I know why people love this version–for God’s sake, it’s like ABC: The Movie. But we should not become so dazzled by getting lots of otherwise unfilmed scenes from the book that we are blind to this version’s flaws.
I realize this will probably be an unpopular opinion around here. 😉
I should say upfront here that I don’t believe there’s such a thing as a perfect Les Mis film adaptation, mostly because the purpose of film and the execution of a movie are different from those of a book, especially a huge, meandering, philosophical 19th century novel. We need to accept that much of what we love about Les Mis the novel is unfilmable. I’m not just talking about the many ponderings of Hugo himself or the argot/sewers/Waterloo/nunnery/whatever else appendices: I’m talking about the many little details and anecdotes that fill out the book’s universe and characters so well. This version proves that just throwing a bunch of these anecdotes together on screen does not make for compelling cinema (or TV, as I think the case was here).
The problem with 1972 Les Mis, and what is so unpleasant in the scene shown above, is that while it keeps many details/anecdotes from the book, it often lumps them together and rearranges them in ways that violate the original sense in the book. Is there any point to keeping certain lines or certain scenes if you assign them to the wrong characters or juxtapose them with other lines/scenes that don’t complement them? Or if you only do a half-assed version that doesn’t really fully commit to illustrating the significance that Hugo was trying to express (the artillery sergeant scene comes to mind)? Some of these alterations are jarring, others are plain laughable. I will never recover from a skeezy, bohemian-looking Jean Prouvaire leering and telling Enjolras to his face that the street looks great “décolletée.” Is there any reason this line couldn’t have stayed with Bahorel, and is there any reason in holy hell that he needs to be saying this to Enjolras, of all people? If that had been Laigle saying it to Joly, I would have laughed my ass off, but as it stands, it just feels like a weird and unnecessary change. And that’s only a little example. How about a scene like the café Richefeu? The set-up for that scene was pretty true to the book (the assignment of duties to the various Friends, Enjolras and Grantaire’s little repartee), and the payoff blew it. Why do we need to see Courfeyrac walk in on Grantaire slacking off? What does this contribute?
That is the lens through which I see the above scene. I love the individual parts and I love, love, love this cast. Courfeyrac is the best part of the scene, just the way he starts out in normal, conversational French, “Do you remember…?” as if to say wistfully, “Do you remember when we used to recite poetry together and stuff, guys, back in our normal lives?” and then immediately kinda doubles back and covers that potential crack in his cheerful facade with a playful look and with the artificiality of “poetry recitation” style French: “Vous-rappe-lez-vous-no-tre-dou-ce-vie.” It’s such a small nuance, and so faithful to the way the scene is set up in the book, and he’s so good with it. Likewise Enjolras’ delivery of his speech is not at all unlike him, if on the severe side for him.
(I should emphasize again that the guys cast as the Friends are not the problem with 1972 French Les Mis. They are amazing, they are glorious. They are so natural with each other–they have an easy camaraderie that makes it seem like they’ve been friends forever. Also, they are so very…um…French. Just the moues they make, their gestures and their line readings are so incredibly French. I’m going to single out Courfeyrac, who’s without a doubt the most, ahem, attractive and the most lovable Courfeyrac ever, and Laigle and Joly, who are so freakin cute. Enjolras doesn’t look like himself, but at least he acts like himself. Marius and Grantaire are each suitably doofy. The only exception to this rule, and the one that drives me up the wall, obviously, is Combeferre, who is absolutely 180 degrees away from what a Combeferre ought to be. He just makes Combeferre look like such an unpleasant person, and that is completely unforgivable. Anyway, that’s a story for another day.)
…The problem is that 2+2 in this scene equals 3: that is, good stuff added together with other good stuff makes for less than the sum of its parts. Why was it necessary to shove these two scenes into one? Whyyyy????? I don’t really mind them giving the authorial narration on civil/foreign war to Enjolras, as it doesn’t sound too jarring from him. I don’t even really mind the way the poem has been adapted to be a tribute to Prouvaire instead of a recitation with him, and the way all the Friends do these line readings manages to be adorable and sad at the same time. Even Combeferre’s not being quite as grouchy as usual, which is what makes the segue between these scenes even more jarring. Combeferre says a very reasonable thing, and Enjolras goes into his Avatar state and goes, “Aaarhjcjbbjvjkgefhbcjbch!!!!!” in a blind rage.
Sorry, that was a bit of an exaggeration for dramatic effect, but really, of all the times for Enjolras to flip out on Combeferre and bombard him with a philosophical speech, this didn’t seem like the right time. It is the most out-of-place, artificial, mood-killing segue possible. Lazy script-writing shoved two scenes of totally different tone together and succeeded in making Enjolras look like even more of a sociopath than he usually is. Dear 1972 Enjolras: don’t be a dick. These guys are hanging out mourning their dead friend and all you pick up on is a semantic point about civil vs. foreign war? Please chill out and don’t butt in and let the empathetic human beings talk it out with each other until they feel better.
The best part of this speech is the reaction shots of the other Friends while Enjolras is speechifying. I think Enjolras thinks they’re listening with rapt attention, but they all have just the saddest, most deflated expressions on their faces, like, ‘not this again.’ This is what I imagine they are actually thinking:
(Another amazing thing about this scene is how when Marius sees Enjolras coming, he totally clears the fuck out of there. I don’t know what’s funnier to imagine: that Marius is terrified of Enjolras and automatically gives up his seat to him like a kicked puppy, or that Marius can possibly foresee the bitchy conversation that is to follow and wants no part of it.)
Let’s just play a brief game here, and compare the way this scene is done to the way it’s done in Shoujo Cosette. I know, I know, but go there with me for a second. In ep. 40 of Shoujo Cosette, the poem is recited by, well, the poet. Also, the direction of the scene, the montage of barricade “calm before the storm,” the sweet background music, the lighting and atmosphere are all quite well done (the animation is lazy shit, as always, but that’s Shoujo Cosette for you). It ends when it ends, and it gives you a moment to digest the scene you just saw. It’s contemplative. It’s so brief, but it’s one of my favorite scenes at the Shoujo Cosette barricade because it just takes a breath and thinks about what it’s doing for a moment.
Let’s go a step further, even. God, I do not want to have to compare the artillery sergeant scene of 1972 to that of Shoujo Cosette, but the latter really does do it better. Even in spite of the shark-jump of having Enjolras not actually shoot the guy in the end (!), Shoujo Cosette sets up the scenario more or less as Hugo intended. There is pathos, there is a sense of sad duty, there is that tear. 1972 performs the dialogue of the novel mechanically without ever reaching for the feels, without showing that crack in Enjolras’ facade that makes this scene so important to his character.
I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer, and there are scenes in 1972 that I watch the hell out of, notably anything involving Laigle, because everything he touches is fucking gold. Blondeau’s Funeral Oration: fucking gold. Also Courfeyrac, because he’s hilarious and mischievous and adorably RED-HEADED, and everything a Courfeyrac ought to be (except “round,” lol).
You know what’s better than either Shoujo Cosette or 1972? 1964 Italian movie. Because Le Cabuc episode followed by creepy speech, that’s why. 😛
[All subs in these clips are mine, BTW, so the translation of the French may be iffy in one or two parts (though most of the lines are taken directly from different parts of the novel, so…). I tell you, whoever handled sound quality for that 1972 version was not exactly on point, though he/she is also not helped by the mumbly cast, who are trying their damnedest to make sure they are not understood.]
The funny thing is, I actually pretty much agree with you on almost all of this? The difference is just that most of the problems don’t actually bother me that much, or in some cases not at all. Except maybe Prouvaire saying the Bahorel line, that always makes me cringe and go all “why Bluwal, why?” I mean there are a lot of other little “why?” moments too but most of them I don’t really mind.
“This version proves that just throwing a bunch of these anecdotes together on screen does not make for compelling cinema (or TV, as I think the case was here).”
This part I don’t agree with but I have to admit that my idea of compelling cinema/TV seems to be very different from other people’s ideas so fair enough. I do think this miniseries has other problems that make it awkward but it wasn’t the use anecdotes to me so much as weird pacing (although ALL the film adaptations have weird pacing IMO) and jarring style shifts (especially the Valjean flashback omg why) and inability to stick to a focus.
Few more reactions to ‘72 Les Miserables:
The momes are heartbreaking in this – especially the little one. (I mean, when are they ever not, but…)
….I love how happy they all seem on their way to the barricade.
…where did they find the perfect twisty street for this walk? (”Hi, I’ll be auditioning for the role of Rue de la Verrerie today…”) Like, I thought I saw St. Sulpice at some point, but now I’m not sure.
Ah, paving stones. Good.
…Ok, I guess I can see where they’re coming from with this Prouvaire? Although he’s definitely not book-Prouvaire. But he still kinda pings me as a bit late for this era – like, maybe Symbolist or even surrealist?
Wait…oh, ick. Definitely not MY Prouvaire.
I really like this Gavroche, though – right in the the tradition of “Les quatre cents coups” & the like. Also pretty much the right age, I think?
There are some AWESOME mustaches going on here.
HI! I’m finally ready to talk about this finally. x) If you’re still up to it, idk.
The momes! They’re so adorable and sad in this and oh man, this Gavroche is just perfect in my opinion. Favourite Gavroche ever. I mean, there are other Gavroches I really really love but this one is the one I’d choose if I was forced to pick one. Oh and yeah I think he’s the right age too? Usually they cast younger kids but in the book he’s twelve right? The actor looks about twelve to me. Maybe thirteen.
And I love the on-the-way-to-the-barricade scenes so much. Some of the best moments. Courfeyrac just steals the whole show, though.
(”Hi, I’ll be auditioning for the role of Rue de la Verrerie today…”)
:DD Thank you for that one. Oh and you wondered in another post about whether this was filmed in Paris or not? I got the impression from the interviews of the director that it was, except for the barricade scenes which had to be done in a studio. (Although this is again with the disclaimer that my French suuuucks so I might have misunderstood everything.)
Okay this Prouvaire is just weird, I admit. I mean, there are moments when I kinda really like him? Like when he’s being weird but in a kind of sort of “interesting interpretation” way? I can’t help being amused at how much he’s like a humanoid raven (I mean look at him sitting on the fence with Gavroche, they’re like two curious birds). But then he’s given the Bahorel line that doesn’t fit him AT ALL.
(I mean yeah, this adaptation is a bit hit-and-miss with Les Amis and that’s such a shame but when it hits, it hits the bullseye.)
So in case you want to know more about the 1972 miniseries, mostly to hear the director’s reasoning for his choices (and watch him being a total Hugo fanboy), well, this exists. You don’t even have to download it, the video is right there in its entirety.
There’s also a later (1999), shorter clip from an interview of the director here (where he speaks about Les Mis and also politics and a documentary on Rosa Luxembourg that he also did). Same thing, the whole thing is right there.
(Oh and hi, I’m alive again!)
When people in the Les Mis fandom be like “Jeanne Valjean” I’m like “Uh … Do you mean JVJ Jr.’s mother, JVJ Jr.’s sister, Fem!JVJ Jr., or a fictional daughter of JVJ Jr.?
Real excerpts from the Finnish Les Misérables translation, vol. 2:
Jean Valjean: I will do the spy
Enjolras: You shall have the imprisoned man
Javert: You have been thinking about this every night
OH MY GOD
I NEVER EVEN REALISED HOW DIRTY THIS IS
I WAS TOO BUSY CRINGING AT THE SHEER AWKWARDNESS OF THE WORDING
BRB DYING OF LAUGHTER
I managed to fix my computer after all!!!
IT engineering friends are THE BEST. ❤ Also I think they must be like wizards. I don’t think any of her advice would have made any less sense to me if instead of renaming files in seemingly random ways and inserting some incomprehensible numbers she would have been telling me to draw arcane runes inside a magic circle.
But whatever IT WORKED.
Unfortunately I’m probably gonna be too busy this week to post much anyway. ^^;; But we’ll see.
Okay, the good news is that I managed to save all my files from my broken computer. That’s the most important thing so. Yay!
The bad news is that fixing the computer might be so expensive that it makes more sense to buy a new one. orz
Take better care of your computers, kids. That’s the lesson of this story.
Anyway, hopefully I’ll manage to handle this soon-ish. I’ll try at least, this is just so frustrating that I keep avoiding it and procrastinating.
can we stop trashing enjolras in e/r
i’m all for monstrous enjolras characterization, but more along the lines of ‘this bar is now only serving molotov cocktails’ instead of being written as verbally abusive
i know the ‘incapable of thought belief life death etc etc’ section is maddening my first thought was ‘mon ange you shot a man like three chapters ago but that will not deter me from punching you in the face’ but people use that scene to justify cruel, horrible enjolras when the context is grantaire harrassing and bullying a waitress on a battlefield completely wasted while the rest of them prepare for war. it’s not as pointlessly harsh as people make it out to be, it’s the last fucking straw. the revolution is what enjolras has been working towards his whole life, why do people take this line and act like it’s a regular occurrence?
he’s disdainful, and (ironically h a ha) skeptical of grantaire, and hugo lets us know he’s rebuffed him many times but I don’t see a basis for interpreting him as the kind of guy who delivers an Ego Eviscerating speech for anything less than ‘I’m literally preparing to fight and die while you’re being a useless dick’ hugo says he felt ‘lofty pity’ not ‘you’re the worst and i fucking hate you’
i think it’s pretty obvious from hugo’s earlier drafts that enjolras didn’t expect OFPD (his ’thank you’ holds so much surprise & gratitude) i don’t think enjolras knew and understood the extent of grantaire’s loyalty (i don’t think grantaire did either: ‘without being clearly aware of it, and without any notion of explaining it to himself, he was spellbound––’)
yes, several passages talk about how “sweet” and “tender” he was but that tenderness is also accompanied by sass, bullshit, and melodrama, would you expect sincerity from someone who follows you around saying shit like ‘what marmoreal magnificence?’ unreal
i would think they’re fucking with me, not ‘maybe we’ll die holding hands’ and grantaire offering to help with your revolution when he goes around whistling monarchy tunes to piss you off is like a troll blog offering to help you with your latest politically progressive news article, you’re gonna sideeye the fuck out of it. why people think enjolras knows how grantaire feels about him when he ‘barely perceived roses, he was oblivious of spring, he did not hear birds sing, etc etc’ and would go out of his way to be cruel even knowing that is beyond me
I agree completely. Sometimes in fanfiction the whole basis for E/R to happen is that slowly Enjolras changes his perception of Grantaire, who it turns out is actually a great guy.
Obviously everyone is entitled their own interpretation of the story, but I feel that while in canon too we could interpret their death holding hands as a change of heart coming from Enjolras, this doesn’t come from Enjolras realizing that he has been a bastard all along. It comes from Grantaire finally proving his loyalty and his devotion towards him: it is Grantaire, not Enjolras, that changes his behaviour.
i’d argue that Enjolras does change, but it’s subtle and I missed some of it the first time round because of how vague the ‘bare breast of Evadne’ reference is. a classicist on here (i honestly don’t remember who made the post or where to find it but if I do i’ll link) pointed out that it’s not actually a reference to him not being attracted to breasts, why would it be when hugo spent the entire earlier paragraph stating his lack of attraction to women? that’s just overkill. it actually references evadne tearing at her clothes before jumping onto her lover’s funeral pyre to join them in death, meaning that enjolras gives zero fucks about loyalty that’s only based in love and not ideology. self sacrifice for love? that doesn’t achieve anything or save anyone? how pointless! he reveres sacrifice in the name of politics (mabeuf) but not that.
and then we have the barricades, and enjolras starts to think more of these personal attachments, tells men to think of their dependents, their families, the man who didn’t notice spring notices a mother holding vigil for her son, and this culminates in OFPD. because you’re right, grantaire changes! that is the heart of OFPD, that’s why it’s powerful, hugo describes him as transformed, he speaks loudly and bravely, he announces his loyalty to the revolution (and this is notable, in earlier drafts it goes more ‘i’m with him, shoot me’ hugo deliberately chooses ‘long live the republic!’)
it is, of course, out of love, but it’s a moment of triumph and defiance, not evadne’s despair, and he’s not the only one who changes. enjolras sees the value of loyalty that’s motivated by love, he sees its potential to transform a person, and smiles.
Love this discussion – I’ve been biting my tongue for a long time and wanting to write a long piece on how much I dislike the pissy, cruel, petty and ranty Enjolras of fanfic, but I’m reluctant to do so as I don’t want to be seen to be attacking individual authors. Seriously – it seems almost no E/R fic is complete without Enjolras having, at some point, to apologise for wronging Grantaire.
That aside, and agreeing with the original point, I do also agree that Enjolras evolves and Grantaire is an essential part of his character arc. But not because he accepts any truth Grantaire espouses, or that Grantaire is “right” in his cynicism. Quite the opposite. Grantaire accepts Enjolras’ overarching vision and belief, and Enjolras accepts Grantaire’s flawed, messy, wonderful humanity.
The Enjolras we originally meet is not concerned with the personal, intimate, human and domestic sphere – in addition to Evadne’s bare breast not moving him (and, as you correctly identify, this is not a sexual appeal he’s ignoring – it is a human supplication for pity and bending rigid strictures), we also have his response to Courfeyrac’s teasing about Rousseau. His response is partly fuelled by Courfeyrac ‘s appalling pun using a word he has made up to tease Enjolras (thus the strength of the “FFS, Courfeyrac “ we get from Enjolras), but it’s also prioritising the good of “the people” above the good of the individual.
By the time we get to the barricades, this has changed. He is willing to compromise the verdict of the Republic he has delivered on Javert to attempt to save Prouvaire (even though releasing Javert potentially endangers anyone who survives the barricade, Enjolras will risk that – Javert’s sentence of death means less to him than saving the life of his friend). The Enjolras we first met would have sacrificed the individual to the greater good. The Enjolras of the barricades – the incarnation of the ancient Themis – will compromise the abstract ideas of justice to save Prouvaire. And when he conducts his reconnaissance on the morning of the 6th June, he spots an elderly woman praying by candlelight and assumes she has a male relative at the barricade, which he conveys to Combeferre. We have, in a sense, come full circle from the bared breast of Evadne – here is a human appeal, in individual appeal, and Enjolras wants to grant it. He wants to send those with dependents from the barricade. It is a subversion of old Roman ideals, the mother who tells her son to come home with his shield or on it. In this case, she is no Roman mother – she wants her child back. And Enjolras would grant that if he could.
So the groundwork has really been laid for OFPD, and it is not wholly one sided. Grantaire is transfigured and embraces the cause of a greater, abstract good (I’m really uncomfortable with interpretations that gloss over this and suggest his motives are purely driven by his love of an individual man, individual motives and a desire to keep Enjolras from dying alone, as it glosses over the fact that Grantaire is transfigured and is wholly subsumed in the cause for which his friends die, and for which he dies). But as Grantaire embraces the wider abstract cause, Enjolras also embraces the individual man who is doing this. Enjolras has done all he can do for his cause, and would have died content without Grantaire, confident that a better day will dawn. He is tranquil before Grantaire wakes, resigned, powerful, magnificent. He has said and done all he can do for his cause, and barely even spares monosyllabics for the men who will kill him. His job is done.
But then – Grantaire arises and joins him. That smile, that handclasp, that appeal “If you permit it”, are personal. Yes, it’s an acknowledgement of Grantaire’s sacrifice for the Republic, but it is also a moment of personal and human connection. Their arcs are done, and finally meet in each other. Grantaire has arisen, transfigured – Enjolras told him the barricade was a place for intoxication, not drunkenness, and that is what Grantaire has embraced (thus the title of the chapter). But Enjolras, too, having done his part for the grand march of progress, also comes to reach out to the human, personal, intimate, flawed, chaotic and wonderful part of humanity.
Hugo told us earlier that Enjolras was incomplete, as much as the absolute could be incomplete…but also that under the influence of Combeferre (and, I’d venture, his other friends – there is much of Feuilly in his “View from a Barricade” speech) that he was evolving, and the narrowness of his vision was taking on a more universal aspect. I believe that is what we see here, with the embrace of Grantaire at the very end of his life – he dies complete. His story in respect of the Republic is done before Grantaire awakes – he has said and done all he must say and do, and all that remains is for him to die. But the last moments, when an inspired Grantaire arises and takes his hand with an appeal, are an affirmation of the personal, individual and intimate.
As much it saddenfuriates me that Bahorel technically exists but is largely unfindable in the LM 2012 movie
and as much as I wince at how easily people are confused about which unnamed background guy he is (Red Jacket Guy(no)? Iwan Lewis (yes)? that candle in Red and Black (no, but hey, Light Symbolism, it’s probably close enough) ? A completely different random background person?)
(and I absolutely do not blame any fan for that; it’s hard to figure out who the heck he is and that’s the movie’s own fault but)
I do actually appreciate, in a weird way, how it’s sort of turned 2012 ! Bahorel into an idea more than a specific faceclaim
like, whoever the screencapper thinks looks the revolution-est, that’s Bahorel now
no fixed identity
he’s The Riot on The Streets
he could be anyone
it’s kinda cool, really.