Running time: 3 hours 40 minutes
Valjean: Lino Ventura — Javert: Michel Bouquet — Fantine: Evelyne Bouix
Special Guest Stars: the credits list one Roger Hanin in the beginning with
special gratitude, but I don't know who the heck he is or what role he played.
Perhaps the senator in the beginning, talking to Monseigneur Myriel? Anyone? Bueller?
Directed by Robert Hossein
A TF1 Co-Production
M. Gillenormand: yes
Both Mlle. Baptistine and Mme. Magloire: yes
Thénardiers, after the inn: yes
Sister Simplice: yes (unnamed, but credited)
Gavroche's brothers: no
Mme. Victurnien: yes (unnamed, but credited)
Petit Gervais: yes (unnamed, but credited)
M. Mabeuf: no
Toussaint: yes (no stutter)
Hugo's original preface used
Valjean is in prison at the beginning
Bishop Myriel remains asleep during the robbery (unknown: scene cut
from Valjean going bed to him being brought back in the morning)
Fantine and Félix Tholomyès
Fantine sells her teeth
Fantine becomes a prostitute
Valjean buries his money (unclear, but he did pack it)
Fight at Fantine's Deathbed
The ship Orion
Valjean meets Cosette at the well
The first incident at Gorbeau House
Javert chases Valjean and Cosette
* Through Paris
* On foot
* Car(riage) chase
The second incident at Gorbeau House
Valjean and Cosette see the chain gang
Lamarque's funeral is shown or mentioned
Chase through sewers
Story continues after Javert's suicide
Marius, after learning Valjean's history, treats him badly
Works in the galleys
The factory makes glass beads (looks like)
The doll, Catherine (stays through the whole picture)
The garden at Rue Plumet (there's a garden)
Correct address (none given)
The Luxembourg Garden (filmed on location!)
The town's name is Montreuil-sur-mer
The man Valjean saves in Arras is named Champmathieu
Valjean's name becomes Fauchelevant ..
Eponine/Gavroche as Thénardier's child
P R O D U C T I O N N O T E S
This has got to be one of the most faithful
productions I have yet seen. Of course the French are going to go by the book,
but even more than the 1958 Jean Gabin version, this one has the most authentic
feel about it. Filmed entirely in France, and on location where possible
(including the Luxembourg Garden!) this four part television series so seriously
outclasses the 2001 French miniseries that it's a shame they released that one
to English speaking audiences and not this one. It's also presented in
widescreen (yay!) which is of course perfect for subtitles (hint! hint!) and the
detail and depth of understanding of the material is evident all the way
The director, Robert Hossein, is no stranger to Les
Misérables. Not only is the the director that brought the original French
musical to the stage at the Palais du Sport in 1980, but he even had a bit role
in Claude Lelouche's 1995 movie version. Though he's hardly a household name in
the US, he is very well known and respected in France both as a director and as
an actor. He became best known, oddly enough, for his villainous roles.
As for the other details of the plot:
- Not much is missing from this version except for some minor characters,
such as Mabeuf and the two little boys. And they even spend twenty minutes
with the Bishop before really introducing Jean Valjean, which I thought was
- Only minor tweaking of the plot occurs here. Fantine is already dead when
Javert comes to arrest Valjean, and he of course escapes out the window.
Cosette brings her doll away from Gorbeau house, and Valjean still has it when
he dies. Thénardier calls Colonel Pontmercy a colonel from the outset, never
mistaking him for a general. Cosette is already about eight years old when she
is dropped off at the inn. But that's nothing to the little details that do
get done right, like Thénardier's failure to recognize Jean Valjean in the
sewer, or the beautiful montage during which Fantine becomes more and more
hideous while Thénardier's voiceover reads his letters to her demanding more
money. First her hair goes, then her teeth, finally she looks like the living
- All the supporting characters fulfill their specific functions. Éponine
does her stuff, Gavroche does his. Each student for the little screen time he
gets is his own character, not just "Students, Generic, Assorted." Even when
you don't know their names, you can guess who someone's supposed to be by
their role. There are no added police buddies for Javert or friends of Marius
we've never heard of before.
- The credits are all done in the Caslon Antique style, including the main
title. Caslon Antique is "the musical's font." It made things interesting,
although that's by no means the only thing borrowed from his staging of the
musical two years before the making of this series... to whit:
- Gavroche sings the Voltaire song using the same tune as the musical (the
English version being "Little People"). It's also credited to Boubil and
Schonberg at the end of the series. No matter how many times and how many ways
they cut that stupid song, it finds a new way to creep in...
- And this is weird: how come Thénardier gets top billing over Javert?
What's up with that?
C A S T N O T E S
Pretty much this entire cast is unknown to me. I tried looking them up on
IMDB and other related sites hoping that some things these people did besides
this series would ring a bell, but to no avail. Instead, for cast tidbits,
please go look at some Stickies, that's the best I can do.
T H E B E S T T H I N G S A B O U T T H I S V E R S I O N
- The attention to plot, detail, and overall adhesion to the book instead of
trying to "re-engineer" it.
- The way Madame Magloire slams the soup plate down in front of Valjean.
Just forceful enough to register displeasure, but not hard enough to be called
- The bit with Marius asking his grandfather for permission to marry. M
Gillenormand is eating, and as he rings a bell on his table a new dish is
announced and served. He takes maybe three bites and then rings again, etc.
His ringing becomes more agitated and more rapid as the meal goes on,
regardless of whether or not Mlle Gillenormand is quite finished with
hers--when the bell rings, the plates change. Later on when Thénardier comes
to blackmail Marius, he and Cosette are eating in the same fashion. It's
comical in a socially relevant way, you'll see what I mean.
- Montage for when Marius and Cosette meet in the garden at Rue Plumet, they
remain perfectly still while the background changes from summer to autumn to
winter to spring, with Marius's note to Cosette read in a voiceover.
- Believe it or not, the guy playing Javert is a dead ringer for my college
French teacher, Raymond Lemieux. Uncanny! I know, nobody else cares, but it
sure was weird...
T H E W O R S T T H I N G S A B O U T T H I S V E R S I O N
- The main theme is a slow oompah kind of song, like the kind in one of
those boxes with a crank that have monkeys attached to them. In fact, there's
just such a box in the Luxembourg where Marius first sees Cosette, and that
music is being played... the rest of the score is very nice, but that song is
- Montparnasse looks like Matt Damon. That's not a good look for him.
Fantine, however, looks like Leslie Caron in "Gigi." Which may or may not be a
good thing. Good for the looks, bad for the part (young girl being raised to
be a rich man's future mistress)
- The supertitles are kinda screwy. The introduction says that this movie
takes place between 1815 and 1830 (the insurrection takes place in 1832) and
the final scene is titled "Autumn, 1838" (instead of 1833, presumably).
(1838? Heck, Valjean's in Canada by then! Oops, I mean... )
- Many of the characters are not introduced by name. If you're as familiar
with the story as we are, and that France is, this is not a problem. But most
characters are only identified in the credits. For example, you'd never know
the chimney sweep in the first episode was named Petit Gervais, or that the
sister is Simplice, without having already read the book. First time viewers
will get mighty confused.
T H E S I L V E R C A N D L E S T I C K A W A R D S ( " STICKIES® " )
And the awards go to....
- Best Bookends: The film starts with a chain gang struggling through mud...
Javert walks up to a particularly dirty convict and says, "Valjean, you are
free." At the end of the film, as Cosette and Marius arrive, Valjean looks up
into the crucifix above him and there's a flashback to the prison. Javert
steps forward, but the Valjean is not the convict Valjean, he's the older
(present) Valjean. And Javert says, "Valjean, now you are free." Cool!
- Best Example of Hiring In The Family So You Can Save Postage Mailing The
Royalties Out: and no, it's not the fact that there's a Nicholas Hossein
(director's son) in the acting credits and an Alain Hossein (director's
father) in the music credits... it's the fact that Monseigneur Myriel is
played by a Louis Seigner and Madame Thénardier is played by a Françoise
Seigner. He is (was, rather, as he's deceased) her father. Now there's a
relationship fanfic hasn't discovered yet... I hope...
- Soggiest Production: It's always raining. It's raining when Fantine leaves
Cosette with the Thénardiers. It's raining when Marius is moping about
Cosette. It's raining when Javert witnesses the mayor lift the cart. It's
raining when Marius and Cosette end their romantic rendezvous. Etcetera,
etcetera. It's a wonder everyone didn't catch their death on this production!
(Oddly, though, there's no rain during the insurrection. You remember, the
"rain swollen river" part? "Little fall of rain" and like that? Nope, none for
W H E R E T O F I N D T H I S V E R S I O N
Alapage.com, a French site, says it has it. Blockbuster.com has it listed, but not for sale or
order. Or check EBay. However you get it, it will be in straight French, no dub, no sub. Good luck!