For a class taught by poet/playwright Tom Daley, I wrote a poetic review of the 2012 movie musical Les Misérables. I had read the very long book (1463 pages), and I looked forward to a condensed movie version. I recall that it was, unfortunately, too condensed, and it made no sense, at least not to me. So, I wrote this poem—

Miserable

I fail you for your lack of veracity.
Meet Me in St. Louis in comparison
looking like kitchen sink realism—
nobody lives in a parade
of close-up cinematography!

I fail you for your lack of fidelity
to the primary text: the Thenardiers
never buffoonish, ever menacing predators
while Hugo’s Paris is a character—

A city, a character?

No doubt of it. Consider the chase
across a bridge, spanning the Seine,
into a specified Y of streets,
that Y channeling the chase one way,
one upward way for valiant Val—

Veracity?, Fidelity? Les Miz is
a movie musical, not a documentary!

Point taken—somewhat—but
I aver, a movie musical
cannot stand without authenticity.
I fail this one for its zero clarity.
Suddenly some students sing lustily
about all things red and black, and then
aux barricades they rush—wherefore?
A blank at the narrative’s core.

I would like to add, on a separate issue, that I once wrote a poem (sadly long deleted) about Deborah Kerr’s expressive eyes at the end of the 1961 movie The Innocents, based on Henry James’s 1898 horror novella, The Turn of the Screw. While there have been many movie versions of The Turn of the Screw, I can definitely recommend this one (unless you enjoy James’s ornate writing style).

 

Thomas Gagnon has published essays and reviews in Wilderness House Literary Review and alternative literary blog, The Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene. He has published articles about art exhibits in South End News and poetry in cross-disability literary journal Breath and Shadow.

 

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