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Reasons to Love Libraries and Les Mis

There are many things I love about our library system here–especially the fact that I’ve gotten to read hundreds of books. But one of the coolest things they offer is movies to borrow. Just like Netflix or Blockbuster, I can get the latest DVDs from my library. For seven days. For free. Seriously. How cool is that? We’ve watched lots of movies through our library, though it’s slowed a lot since I started writing the book. Most of my evenings are spent writing.

However, I did watch Blue Valentine, with Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling, over the weekend. The acting was excellent, I have to say. I totally believed these characters. But the movie as a whole was thoroughly disappointing. It’s about a relationship that’s gone bad, the love gone from their marriage. We see flashbacks of how they met, how in love they were, and we follow them in present time as their marriage is dissolving. The problem? We didn’t ever get to see the problem. The wife blamed the husband, not liking how they were together, how they were in front of their child. But he didn’t do anything wrong. He tried, kept trying. He loved his wife, he adored their child. And they didn’t seem “bad” in front of the child. I had no idea what the wife was talking about when she broke down at the end and started her “I can’t do this anymore” spiel. It didn’t make sense. So Steve and I were both left with a “Huh?” sort of feeling as the credits rolled. Did we miss something? Maybe the problem was they spent all this time flashing back to show how the relationship was built, showing the love story aspect of it, but spent no time showing how it started to fall apart. There just wasn’t anything there to support that, other than the fact that they are dysfunctional in present time.

But, honestly, I was riveted the whole time. The movie was so well done. (You know, except for the small issue of the story making sense.) I had no idea where the film was going. Turns out that’s because it didn’t go anywhere. Really, so disappointing. Though, again, lovely, lovely acting. If you saw the film, what did you think of it?

Over the weekend I also got to Skype with a friend of mine. A friend I’ve known for 30 years. (But I can’t possibly be old enough for that to be true.) She’s taking her teenage daughter to see Les Miserables sometime soon, and I can barely stand it. I LOVE Les Mis. I’ve loved it for twenty-five years. (Again, I’m not old enough, I swear. But still, it’s true.) The first time I saw it, I didn’t breathe the entire time, and when the lights went up, I said, “It’s over? Already?” (It’s about 3 hours long.) I’ve never seen another show that is as enthralling as Les Mis. It’s perfect.

So, I’ve been watching the 10th Anniversary concert on YouTube ever since we talked. Thinking perhaps I should get it on DVD. (Might be nice to watch it all the way through. Over and over and over again.) Because I LOVE it. And I forget how much I love it when I’m not actively listening to it. At the moment? I’m in love. Songs like “Bring Him Home,” “A Little Fall of Rain,” and “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” bring me to tears. (Links to the YouTube videos. Watch. Really.) I’m sure it’s a combination of the phenomenal music, lyrics, and great emotion the singers bring to it. But, oh my. Seriously. I get choked up just watching. So amazing.

My favorite part? The whole thing. But I have a favorite note. (I’m not kidding.) (This is the only show or piece of music that I can think of where one note stood out as an incredible thing all unto itself.) There is this one specific note that gave me chills, made me gasp and cry the very first time I saw the show and every time I’ve heard it since . . . when Javert commits suicide. If you’ve not seen the show or aren’t familiar with it, Javert is a policeman, chasing after escaped “criminal” Valjean. Javert is the bad guy, but he’s not the bad guy. He’s doing his job, he’s doing what he thinks is right. He’s very black-and-white in his views. Valjean was serving hard time for stealing bread (he was starving). He escaped and dedicated his life to doing good. Years later their paths crossed again, and Javert starts chasing him again, wanting to send him back to prison. Valjean ends up saving Javert’s life, and Javert cannot stand the position that puts him in. He cannot reconcile his stark beliefs of good and bad, and so he commits suicide rather than be indebted to Valjean. When he does, at the moment he leaps off the bridge to his death, he sings this one note that is in complete discord with the music. It sounds WRONG. It stands out. It almost seems as if he’s not singing, but yelling. And then? Shiver-inducing magic as the music swells up to meet him on that one note. Oh, I have got to tell you. Every time I listen to it–every time, I kid you not–that one note sweeps chills up my back and down my arms. And I could cry.

This is it, from the 10th anniversary concert of Les Mis, so it’s missing the staging, but the music and emotion is there. This whole piece is the final Valjean-Javert confrontation, where Javert finally catches up to Valjean, but Valjean is trying to save another man’s life at that moment, has to get him to a doctor, and asks for Javert to give him an hour, then he’ll return and turn himself in. Essentially, Valjean is giving up, he’s tired of being chased. In the meantime, which you won’t see here, Javert is trapped by rebels and they’re going to kill him. Valjean comes along and says he’ll do it, he’ll take care of Javert. But instead of killing him, Valjean lets him go, saves his life. If you want to skip ahead to just listen to Javert’s part, start at 1:40. The Note is at about 4:40. But really? You need to listen to all of Javert’s song from 1:40 on to build up to that moment, his torment that throws him to his death. Oh, really. It’s amazing. Here, see for yourself.

See what I mean? Here, have a tissue. I know I need one.

My friend also raved about the show Wicked, which she’s seen many times and LOVES. I totally have to check it out. What about you? Seen any good shows or movies lately?

2 thoughts on “Reasons to Love Libraries and Les Mis

  1. Anonymous

    I agree wicked was amazing! HP 7.5 was also amazing it was full of action and was a lot like the book! Speaking of books i still cant wait to read yours! I miss you & i hope to see you soon!-meghan

  2. j. meyers

    You know, I haven't seen any of the Harry Potter movies yet. I've read all the books–LOVE them–but haven't seen the movies. I'll have to do a HP movie marathon sometime!Glad you're looking forward to the book, Meghan. I'm anxious to have you read it, too.