LES MISERABLES – Review by Susan Granger

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This winner of the 2019 Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize and France’s official submission for Oscar’s Best International Feature is, basically, Victor Hugo’s ‘Les Miz’ in the ‘Hood.

Co-written and directed by Ladj Ly, who was born and raised in Montfermeil, where Hugo set part of his story, it’s surprisingly relevant in contemporary culture, focusing on a real incident of police brutality.The story opens on July 15, 2018, as a troublemaking, streetwise youngster named Issa (Issa Perica) wears a French tricolor as if it were a cape. France is playing Croatia in the World Cup final, and thousands have gathered to watch.

When Kylian Mbappe, the son of a Cameroonian father and an Algerian mother, scores the final goal, enabling France to win the Cup, the Champs-Elysees erupts into a raucous, international festival.

Reporting for his first day on duty with the Street Crimes Unit (S.C.U.), Stephane (Damien Bonnard) cruises around the Montfermeil commune with the patrolling squad leader, hot-tempered, racist Chris (Alexis Manenti), and their laid-back colleague Gwada (Djebril Zonga) at the wheel of a gray Peugeot.

The veterans on the force denigrate the area’s crime boss (Steve Tientcheu), whom Chris dubs “our own Obama,” along with Salah (Almamy Kanoute), part of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Tension erupts with the disappearance of a baby lion cub named Jimmy, part of a small traveling circus. And high atop the roof of an apartment building in the infamous Les Bosquets housing projects, young tech-savvy Buzz (Al-Hassan Ly) launches a drone equipped with a camera that captures video footage of Issa, who is wanted for questioning, being pursued and wounded by the S.C.U.

The apocalyptic action sequences are vividly filmed by Julien Poupard, set to a Pink Noise soundtrack.

“My film is like a cry for help in a space that has been ignored for the last 30 years…This is a film I’m addressing to the politicians of France,” declares Ly, making his debut feature.

In French with English subtitles, Les Miserables is an incendiary 7, an urban thriller that’s available on Amazon.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You may also be interested in reading Diane Carson’s review of Les Miserables

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.