What Do We Owe All the Valjeans?

valjean bishop

Since Les Mis seems to prompt endless reprises on this blog, you won't be surprised to find I'm over at First Things today talking about Valjean, Javert, and what we owe to the prisoners in our criminal justice system. When Jean Valjean appears for the first time in the stage musical Les Misérables, he is in the process of being paroled, and he is in an argument with his former jailer. When Inspector Javert barks out “You are a thief,” Valjean replies, “I stole a loaf of bread.” For Valjean, his … [Read more...]

But Aren’t Saints Dreadfully Dull?

colm valjean

Tonight I'm seeing Les Miserables for the third time (there have been various outings as people have straggled back into DC after the holidays) and, a day or so after my second viewing, I ran across David Denby's pan of the movie for The New Yorker.  Some of the criticisms are fair (the camerawork draws attention to itself in a bad way, Jackman's voice isn't as well suited to Valjean as it was to Curly, etc), but there was one plot-related criticism that I disagreed with big time.  Denby wri … [Read more...]

The Inspector Javert Medley [Sequence Index]

Isn't moral conviction dreamy?

I may not have drawn little hearts in my middle school notebooks labelled "Leah + Inspector Javert" but I've loved him far too much since the first time I saw Les Miserables.  (And, this year, I immediately dibsed his part when organizing a Les Mis flashmob).  But some of the things I've loved most about the adamant Inspector are the things I've had to set aside in order to be a Christian.  So, to mark the occasion of the movie's release, I wrote three meditations on the  … [Read more...]

Javert and Valjean at Prayer

javert and valjean

The two things I found most frustrating about the Les Mis movie were the camerawork and Russell Crowe's performance as Javert.  And they both came together to annoy me during "Stars."  Crowe is sad-eyed instead of steely from his first appearance and, for this number, director Tom Hooper places him on a ledge.  This seems to be done simply so that Hooper can set up some parallelism in his cimematography; the shots of Javert walking right along the edge of the roof in "Stars" are echoed when he pa … [Read more...]

Give Me (and Javert) a Firm Place to Stand

javert

While googling to nail down some of Javert's lyrics, I ended up on his IMDB quotes page, which draws on film adaptations of the book going back to 1935.  And, looking over these selections, it's clear a number of productions have seen Javert as some kind of atheist, possibly of an existentialist stripe.  One movie has him saying, "There is no God. There is only the law. Good and evil do not exist outside the law."But the Javert of the book and the musical isn't a heathen; he's a heretic.   … [Read more...]

Javert: No Quarter Asked or Given

javert

I first saw Les Miserables when I was in middle school, I think, and I was on the edge of my seat from the opening number.  But the moment that transfixed me was Javert's joyous "Stars."  I was in love.There was nothing I wanted so much as to be like that man, ramrod-straight, inviolate, and wholly consecrated to duty.  In fact, when informed of my conversion, one friend, initially puzzled, said, "Well, I guess you've always been a bit of an absolutist."  But my Javertian tendencies are a … [Read more...]

“The Time is Now! The Day is Here!”

les mis flashmob

Things I have attended at midnight this year: The Hunger Games, The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit, and Mass (the first time I've ever attended Mass at Christmas, in fact).  But, today, one family tradition is unchanged by my conversion.  If it's Christmas, it's time for Chinese food and a movie.  And I hope I don't have to tell any of you which movie it's going to be.A few weeks ago, I was feeling a little crestfallen that I didn't have any friends who were likely to invite me t … [Read more...]


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