The 1st weekend UK box office figures for September made for interesting reading: Unsurprisingly, at number 1 was ‘Tenet’ (released by Warner Brothers) grossing £2.1 million for a total running gross of £10 million after 2 weeks. Enough has been said about this film – including by our founder and CEO [Emmanuel Anyiam-Osigwe]. The 2 films propping up the top 10 were interesting entries with Black Panther (in the wake of [[Chadwick Boseman]‘s death) coming in at number 9 – grossing £48,334 and Les Misérables (released by Altitude) coming in at number 10 grossing £48,090.
Now before we go any further, Les Misérables – the movie is not based on the long-running opera of the same name. No this wasn’t an attempt to ape the recent efforts of Hamilton the musical – available to watch on Disney +. No this is Les Misérables as you’ve never seen it before though according to film reviewer Nikki Finecountry who was lucky enough to have watched a preview last week, the film very much reminded her of Noel Clarke’s Adulthood.
For a start, all the action takes place across 24 hours. There are other nods to Adulthood in terms of the gritty style of filmmaking deployed in this explosive directorial debut from Ladj Ly, inspired by the 2005 Paris riots.
NF: “Prior to attending the private screening, I was sent a link to watch the YouTube [trailer] the night before and within seconds, I immediately thought to myself OHH NOOO there’s subtitles and they’re speaking the language of love (ooh la la!). My next thought was GIRRLL… you better have your full 8 hours of sleep tonight ‘cos your eyes are going to be glued to the screen continuously. When it comes to the language of love, the most I can say/understand are the basics: Bonjour (Hello), Je M’appelle (My name is), and quel age as tu (How old are you). As you can see, i’m not the best at speaking French”.
First released in France last year, Les Miserables is a hugely topical provocative insight into the tensions between neighbourhood residents and police and comes highly recommended as it premiered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival winning the Jury Prize and has been nominated for a variety of awards including a Golden Globe and an Academy Nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. So what else is there to like about the 10th highest grossing movie currently at the box office?
NF: “Within the first few minutes of the movie, the actor who plays the new cop caught my attention. I thought to myself ‘he’s very handsome; his features and hairstyle reminded me of the American soul singer D’Angelo and to put the icing on the cake, he’s speaking the language of love so that scored extra points and gave me even more reason to remain focused on the screen”.
Eye candy always helps especially when we are viewing this particular world of Les Misérables through the lens of the Paris suburbs where Victor Hugo set his famed novel. And it’s in these suburbs where D’Angelo, aka Stéphane (played by Damien Bonnard) has recently joined the Anti-Crime Squad in Montfermeil, one of France’s most deprived areas. Alongside his new colleagues Chris (Alexis Manenti) and Gwada (Djebril Zonga) – both experienced members of the team – he quickly discovers tensions running high between local gangs. When the trio find themselves overrun during the course of an arrest, a drone captures the encounter, threatening to expose the reality of everyday life.
NF: “There were parts of the movie that were quite intense especially between the police officers who were assigned to serve and protect their community. One police officer in particular didn’t do things by the book and he left a bitter taste in my mouth. I guess he played the role quite well”.
You’ll have to watch the film to work out which officer wasn’t playing fair though sharp-eyed viewers of ‘The Eddy’ on Netflix may well recognise the same character traits. The film’s setting is a deprived one due to the lack of resources and the circumstances of poverty stricken families in the area with the youth in particular being quite idle and getting into trouble with 1 boy in particular, Issa, who constantly gets in trouble and towards the end of the movie ends up being the ringleader of the gang. Another aspect of the film Ms Finecountry appreciated was the elders in the Muslim community looking out for the youth, trying their best to guide them on the right path.
There’s a lot to like about French cinema at the moment with Atlantiques impressing critics and audiences alike at Cannes last year. Cuties is on the horizon (albeit on Netflix) and the BFI is scheduled to screen the much revered ‘La Haine‘ this weekend – first released 25 years ago. It would be hard not to think of La Haine’s legacy 25 years on when watching Les Miserables. For BUFF audiences familiar with Emmanuel’s granola test, we now have a new barometer for assessing the merits of a good film – introducing the D’Angelo test. And as far as our Nikki’s concerned, Les Miserables passed with flying colours.
Les Misérables is available in UK & Irish cinemas now. Visit miserables.film for more information.