DCSIMG

A Miserable time at the pictures...

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  • by Colin Drury
 

LAST night, at her insistence, I found myself in The Showroom, in Paternoster Row, watching Les Miserables. And it was awful.

I know it’s won awards, and Russell Crowe sings in it, and sometimes he’s almost in tune, and Eddie Redmayne looks all tormented choosing between love and history, and when Anne Hathaway gets her hair hacked off it’s this heart-wrenching symbol of the inherent cruelty at the heart of so-called European enlightenment.

But, basically, it’s dull.

As tedious a thing as I ever did see. And I saw Wednesday play Burnley on New Year’s Day.

It’s a two and half hour distraction trick with music and colour sure, but no trace of any attempt not to be cliche-ridden. I went in with the belief that, historically speaking, the 1832 June Rebellion - around which the story is based - was essentially A Good Thing.

I came out glad the rebels had been massacred, and slightly resentful the book’s author, Victor Hugo, hadn’t been among them.

But she liked it. So that was all right. Horses and courses, and all that.

Here’s the rub, though: it’s 157 minutes long.

More than two and half hours. Nearly an eighth of a day. Which, frankly, is too much. Not just for Les Miss-it-if-you-can but for any film. Ever.

And the fact producers allowed it to be that length, actually, is symbolic of something far more insidious than the bloke from Neighbours trying to hit the high notes. It’s a sign of, culturally speaking, our fat and flabby times...

Samuel L Jackson hinted at this recently. He noted the new Abraham Lincoln biopic (two and half hours) should end 20 minutes earlier. He said films had become over-long. Bang on.

Quentin Tarantino’s new effort is three hours, while the people behind the adaptation of The Hobbit decided they needed a trilogy to tell the story. It’s based on a children’s book.

And it’s not just movies. Back in the Sixties, if you had a song that went over two minutes it was considered some kind of maverick experiment. These days your average chart ditty is clocking in at an are-you-still-here four minutes 40 seconds.

TV too. Popular shows rarely leave before they’ve outstayed their welcome. They refuse to go gracefully. They stick around for series after series until they’re lost - or should that be Lost? - in their own ridiculous back plots.

And this, I reckon, is the real obesity crisis of the 21st century.

Forget fat kids. They’ll be all right if they lay off the Mars bars and have the odd kick-about. The only way they’re a crisis is if one of the little porkers sits next to you on the bus. Nightmare.

But the real unhealthy flab is growing unedifying on our culture.

This YouTube and 140-character generation may be slated for having the attention span of an ADD gnat. But who can blame them for switching off from traditional entertainment when writers, producers, musicians and artists appear to have replaced self-editing with self-importance – when no-one anymore seems to understand that one good solid ending is worth a thousand hours of content and is far more enjoyable too.

Not a new phenomena, of course. Anyone who’s read War And Peace knows that. Some people call it sprawling. They mean verbose.

Because ultimately, there is one universal truth all creative types should remember: nothing worth saying ever takes long.

 

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