CINEMA: ONCE MORE WITH FEELING

CLAUDE LELOUCH'S UPDATING OF LES MISARABLES HAS THE SWEEP AND ROMANCE OF CLASSIC FILMS. HOW UNFASHIONABLE!

SPECTACULAR SWEEP, ROMANTIC grandeur, narrative richness, an improbably happy, morally instructive ending--Les Miserables, which is less an adaptation of Victor Hugo's novel than a melodramatic meditation on its themes, has all the old-fashioned, totally unfashionable virtues.

Claude Lelouch's film, which relocates the French national epic in the 20th century, mostly during World War II, also has all the defects those virtues imply. It is full of absurd coincidences, broadly archetypal characters and situations (yes, a Nazi thumps out a piano concerto while a prisoner is being tortured nearby), and a sentimentality that verges at times on the woozy. It's as if...

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