Les Miserables (1995)

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +3

Content: -1

This parallel adaptation of Victor Hugo's classic 19th Century novel begins at the turn of the century as Henri's (JeanPaulBelmondo) father is falsely arrested for the murder of a man who committed suicide. Henri and his mother move from Paris to Normandy where she gets a job in a pub. During WWII, after the Germans have taken France, Henri helps the Zimans, a wealthy Jewish family, flee the country. Mr. Ziman (Michel Boujenah), reads Hugo's book to him while they drive, and Henri sees parallels to his life in the story. During a border crossing, Mr Ziman is wounded by Germans and left for dead. Mrs Ziman (Alessandra Martines), a famous ballerina, is captured and taken to be mistress to a German general. Henri earlier put the Ziman's daughter into a convent for safety. After the war, Henri buys a seaside resort and is able to reunite Mrs Ziman and her daughter. But tragedy looms as Henri is arrested for a war crime. Miraculously, however, Mr Ziman, returns to save his friend. This excellent film lasts almost three hours, covering 45 years in Henri's life. Its intricate plot with English subtitles and occasional scenes from Hugo's book intertwined require audience concentration. But overall, LES MISERABLES is a fascinating filmgoing experience for mature audiences.

The hero of Hugo's book, Jean Val Jean, becomes Henri's role model. His father's tragic death and his mother's suicide deeply affect young Henri, and the book seems to give meaning to his own tragedy. It is also refreshing that the French treat religion with respect and prayer occurs a few times. The nongratuitous but somewhat intense violence of the film includes Henri's father and a prison companion killed in a fall. Henri's mother commits suicide offscreen, but her body with bloody wrists is shown. Henri is tortured by holding him under water first then beating him with fists. Several shootings, including the German machine gunning of Jewish escapees, take place. Unfortunately, however, a scene of his mother having sex for money, though brief and without nudity, is graphic. Also, numerous crude and obscene expressions are translated in the English subtitles. Anything but miserable, this film could have been even better with judicious editing of the sex scene and offensive language.

Preview Reviewer: Paul Bicking
Warner Bros., 4000 Warner Blvd., Burbank, CA 91522

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Many (20) times Mild 12, Moderate 8

Obscene Language: Many (10) times (fword 1, sword 5, other 4)

Profanity: None

Violence: Several times - Moderate (offscreen suicide; bloody nose in boxing match, falling bodies, few bloody wounds; man held underwater and beaten; machine gun shooting, battle scenes, shootings, strangling, dead animals shown)

Sex: Once (graphic but brief, no nudity)

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: Few times (prostitution referred to; female prisoner and German discuss having sex; farmer's wife suggests sex to man not her husband; priest's helper asks woman to live with

Drugs: Some wine and alcohol drinking

Other: Religion and religious characters treated with respect; prayers said few times; sounds of urination

Running Time:
Intended Audience: Mature teens and adults

Click HERE for a PRINTER-FRIENDLY version of this review.