Les Misérables (1995 film)

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Les Misérables
Les Misérables (1995 film).jpg
Directed by Claude Lelouch
Produced by Claude Lelouch
Written by Claude Lelouch
Starring Jean-Paul Belmondo
Michel Boujenah
Alessandra Martines
Music by Didier Barbelivien
Erik Berchot
Francis Lai
Michel Legrand
Philippe Servain
Cinematography Claude Lelouch
Philippe Pavans de Ceccatty
Edited by Hélène de Luze
Release dates
  • March 22, 1995 (1995-03-22) (France)
  • October 20, 1995 (1995-10-20) (U.S. limited)
  • November 3, 1995 (1995-11-03) (U.S. wide)
  • February 2, 1996 (1996-02-02) (UK)
Running time
175 min.
Country France
Language French
Box office 1,001,967 admissions (France)[1]

Les Misérables is a 1995 film written and directed by Claude Lelouch.[2] Set in France during the first half of the 20th century, the film concerns a poor and illiterate man named Henri Fortin (Jean-Paul Belmondo) who is introduced to Victor Hugo's classic novel Les Misérables and begins to see parallels to his own life.


As the film opens, Henri's father, a chauffeur, is falsely accused of having murdered his boss. During his trial and imprisonment, Henri's mother finds a job in a tavern on a Normandy beach. There Henri sees a [film adaptation] of Les Misérables. His father dies attempting to escape from prison, and upon hearing the news Henri's mother commits suicide. Henri grows up an orphan and learn boxing.

The film next takes up the story of Elisa, a ballerina, and André Ziman, a young Jewish journalist and law student. They meet following a performance of a ballet based on Les Misérables. Later, during World War II, André and Elisa, now married, and their daughter Salomé (director Claude Lelouch casted his own daughter and named the character after her) attempt to cross the Swiss border to escape the Nazis. They encounter Henri, who owns a moving company, and they discuss the Hugo novel. The Zimans entrust Salomé to Henri and enroll her in a Catholic convent school. André and Elisa are ambushed while trying to cross the frontier. Elisa is arrested and André wounded. Farmers who find him give him shelter.

Henri and the members of a local gang join the French Resistance, but the gang members take advantage of their anti-Nazi attacks to steal from local houses. Elisa and other women are forced to entertain the Nazi occupiers. She is sent to a concentration camp for being defiant. After staging an attack on a train transporting funds for the Vichy government, Henri and his mates travel to Normandy to visit the tavern where he lived as a child. The D-Day invasion is launched the next day and Henri supports the Allied forces when the conquer the beach. In the process he saves the life of the tavern owner's son Marius.

At the war's end, Henri accepts an offer to run a seaside camp in Normandy. There he receives a letter from Salomé, who has no way of contacting her family. He takes her with him to the resort, which he names Chez Jean Valjean. Elisa, having surviving a Nazi concentration camp in German-occupied Poland, joins them later.

A former Vichy police agent accuses Henri of abetting the gang's activities during the war and of robbing and burning a train. He is imprisoned to await trial. Meanwhile André's one-time rescuer is holding him captive, hoping to live off his bank account. The farmer has told Ziman that the American D-Day invasion failed and the Nazis now rule the world. With evident reluctance, the farmer's wife support her husband in these lies until he attempts to poison Ziman. Then she shoots her husband before he can feed André the poisoned soup. As she checks to see if her husband is dead, he grabs her and chokes her to death. André escapes from his cellar prison on a bad leg and emerges to find the farmer couple dead and a liberated Europe. He rejoins his wife and daughter at Chez Jean Valjean and then represents Henri at his trial and wins his acquittal.

As the film ends, Henri, now the mayor, presides at the civil marriage of Salomé and Marius in the presence of André and Elisa and the mother superior of the school that sheltered Salomé. André Ziman quotes Victor Hugo: "The best of our lives is yet to come."


In the film within the film


The film received mixed reviews. Roger Ebert wrote he liked this film's "expansive freedom and (the) energy of its storytelling".[3] Janes Maslin, who reviewed the film for the The New York Times, meanwhile complained about "odd variations on Hugo's themes."[4]


The film won the 1995 Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film and Annie Girardot won the 1996 César Award for Best Supporting Actress.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Box office information for Jean Paul Belmondo films at Box Office Story
  2. ^ "Les Misérables". unifrance.org. Retrieved 2015-11-03. 
  3. ^ "Les Misérables". Roger Ebert. 1995-11-03. Retrieved 2015-11-03. 
  4. ^ "Jean Valjean and Nazis". New York Times. 1995-11-03. Retrieved 2015-10-20. 

External links[edit]