Victor Hugo's The Man Who Laughs (2012)

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L’homme qui rit, (2012), French language with English subtitles


If you are a big Victor Hugo fan, you may be interested in this one, even though it is a low budget film.


I read Hugo’s The Man Who Laughs 40 years ago – on Rand’s recommendation – and I had left my copy Stateside. I routinely keep track of the movie schedules down in the Bangkok theaters, even though I usually cannot make it into town to see them. It blew me away when I saw The Man Who Laughs listed in the coming attraction websites. A Victor Hugo classic!


I quickly downloaded a translation of the novel to my Kindle and re-read it before the film started here. Hugo’s novels are often full of long, wordy historical reflections, but – as Rand noted – they can be skipped without destroying the excellent plots; they are like interesting commercial breaks during an exciting TV show.


The novel is long; the movie is not, since it only dwells on the main plot. The film stars Gerard Depardieu as Ursus. I jumped on an express boat to Bangkok to see it, and I got to see it twice before its run finished. I was surprised that it was not only playing in the art house theaters but also at many mainstream theaters. The book is much better than the film, of course. However, it was great to see a relatively obscure Hugo work made into a movie and given a bit of publicity. (Maybe someone, someday, will adapt Ninety-Three for the screen!)


-Ross Barlow.


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