« Les Misérables »
We have it on the authority of the distributors that the Italianmade edition of "Les Miserables", which was unveiled yesterday at the World Theatre, is the seventh film version of Victor Hugo's classic. That, in itself, should be the highest tribute to the persuasiveness of the work. But the current reincarnation of the harried life and times of Jean Valjean is not nearly as compelling as the novel and lacks the power and conviction of some of the previous picturizations.
Since Victor Hugo was crying out against an era, blind injustice and limning the greatest manhunt of them all in "Les Miserables", a viewer is owed sweeping drama and above all, genuine emotion from this masterpiece.
This, then, is somewhat less than a masterpiece, since Valjean and his implacable adversary, Inspector Javert, are, in the main, twodimensional figures whose characters rarely, if ever, come to life.
Although the reasons for Valjean's miseries are not fully explored and the psychological drives that force Javert to hunt the ex-convict are relegated to a few lines of dialogue, Riccardo Freda, the director, has managed to extract some of the excitement and movement inherent in the book.
Jean Valjean's attempted escape from the quarries, where he eventually spends eighteen years, makes for a momentary thrill. In eluding Javert as he is being led through the iron foundry in Montreuil, Valjean effects a fiery and thrilling exit.
As Jean Valjean, the convict whose revolt against society begins when he steals a loaf of bread to feed his starving sister's family (a family only indicated by dialogue), Gino Cervi is given to grim staring and brooding silences.
John Hinrich, as Javert, is a tough and ominous creature, but a man who, only in the climatic scene, confesses that he has "unjustly persecuted" his quarry. Valentina Cortesa plays the roles of both Fantine and her daughter, Cosette, with less polish than has been evident in her other characterizations in Italian and American films. Of the many supporting players, only Luigi Pavese, as the villainous innkeeper Thenardier, is fairly memorable.
Perhaps their emotions were projected with greater clarity in the original Italian version of this import. However, with dubbed-in English dialogue, its words speak louder and more jarringly than its actions. A. W.