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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Directed by Claude Lelouch
Warner Home Video 11/95 DVD/VHS Feature Film
R - violence, brief language, sexuality
Les Miserables is an epic French film directed by Claude Lelouch and inspired by Victor Hugo's classic 1862 novel. In this three-hour tale, Jean-Paul Belmondo plays Henri Fortin, a boxer turned entrepreneur who during World War II in Vichy France helps a wealthy Jewish family reach the Swiss border. Posing as her father, he enrolls their daughter in a safe convent school.
The parents fare much differently. They suffer greatly at the hands of Nazi sympathizers and opportunists. Fortin, meanwhile, serves with some unsavory criminals who first help the Nazis and then the resistance. He witnesses the Allied landing at Normandy before setting up his own seaside resort and becoming mayor of a small town. As the Jewish couple and others read Victor Hugo's novel to Fortin, he realizes that he, like the book's protagonist Jean Valjean, is a survivor.
Les Miserables is Claude Lelouch's most impressive film, and it certainly provides a fitting cap to Jean-Paul Belmondo's illustrious career. Best of all, the story celebrates the triumph of the human spirit over injustice and the fact that helping others is what makes life worthwhile.
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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