LES MISERABLES FEATURETTE: Innovative, Intimate, Authentic?

I do love the behind the scenes conceit of the featurette which offers you the appearance of unscripted, intimate access to the stars and star-directors/producers who have combined to create the film that interests you.

Given the mixed reviews from trustworthy friends, I may not see LES MISERABLES at the cinema (I hated the Broadway show at 23, but then I wasn’t the fan of the genre that I am now), but I was curious to see how Anne and Hugh and Russell portrayed their characters and sang the material.

In this 4:37 featurette there is a clear narrative through line and a sales/marketing message which the visuals support and to which the interviewees contribute. That story is about authenticity and dramatic intimacy in the production of a traditional movie musical.

While Featurettes often emphasize storytelling or production challenges, both legitimate subjects for this sprawling, complex, multi-year period melodrama, the producers of this piece prefer to focus on the relationship of the performer to his or her performance. By use of hidden ear-phones, mikes that were digitally erased in post and an on-set accompanist, the actors recorded the music on set and in the moment, rather than months earlier on a sound stage with an orchestra.

What we get are the stars describing the advantages of the approach and the integrity of the experience, before we see the finished product. Of course, the costumes, the sets, the set-pieces and some intimation of the plot enters into the presentation, but the focus is on thoughtful and gifted actors speaking with passion and knowledge about their work.

There’s a vulnerability in their risk-taking and a commitment to the work that registers persuasively. The featurette in general and this one in particular offers privileged access to the actors and their craft, rather than the polished surface of the trailer, which distances.

And, rather smartly, the featurette focuses on Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, their words and their emotive singing, while minimizing Mr. Crowe’s vocal performance, about which the less said the better.

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movietrailers101 by Fred Greene is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

About Frederick Greene

Entertainment Copywriter & Visiting Assistant Professor, UCLA Dept. of Theater, Film & Television. I teach a graduate seminar in new movie marketing, which focuses on the history, contemporary practice and likely future of a/v advertising for motion picture entertainment.
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