As for what to do with the self-inflicted holiday I created in a flash of frustration,
“Facebook Free February,” maybe start a blog. .
Viewing Le Miserables two days in a row, was quite an experience. My laptop battery was running out in a cafe’ when I thought to check movie times for the venue next door. I gathered my things and walked briskly, sitting exactly as previews began.
I was leery of what might be the film’s emotional toll, but that turned out to be a non-issue: many times I found myself drifting off into side dreams, admiring the set, or looking for the director’s intentions. As the actors strained their faces and voices to convey the anguish of their characters, I could hear some around me beginning to sniffle, could feel others shifting in seats to nonchalantly brush away their tears. But I was running away with myself, editing, imagining the making of the film, of being a hairdresser or make-up artist on the set, talking with Helena Bonham Carter. And I was tweaking and speaking to the actors internally, “Russel, please not so cowardly lion…”
I hadn’t intended to see this film again, although touched unsuspectingly by a note leading into the end, and although on the way home as I puzzled over my coldness in not being affected like the others around me, I found myself sobbing with new determinations to live authentically and with kindness. “I absorbed the emotion of those around me, but felt none of my own,” I said to my daughter when she asked my review.
But the next day was a holiday with a peculiar feeling to the air, beginning with the Inauguration and leading into technical work that seemed to accomplish itself, and then my teenage son, not knowing I’d already gone, asking to see the film.
As we settled and I encouraged him to open candy first so as not to disturb with crackling once the film began, people sat on either side of us that Leonard Cohen might deem “psychically abrasive.” To our right, a man too masculine to allow his wife or others in the theater to think he would enjoy a musical, and to our left, a family doing their best but having a bit of a day. I noticed my son beginning to seethe with irritation, so asked him whether the whole purpose for coming to the planet might be to work with just this sort of feeling; some situations are so over the top… so near to spectacle, one can’t help but bow. We laughed, let down our guards.
And as for Le Miz, it was a quite different film from the one I’d seen the day before. These were different actors, not the ones from the award shows or endless commercials. Through my son’s eyes, the kindness of a priest, the sacredness of music, and the nobility of each of the characters shone through. No one was out-rightly evil; each played their part with reverence, and “how heartbreaking a prison of literalness!” The heart of the roles consisted in allowing failure to be seen, to be loved and redeemed from the squalor, so ultimately they succeeded. Who, coming away, would want to be a Cosette, sheltered and kept innocently polished, and who isn’t Eponine?
Jean Val jean did begin to look like Michael Landon.