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‘Les Misérables’ Review: Director Ladj Ly Sets Fire to Modern Paris in Kinetic Debut

‘Les Misérables’ Review: Director Ladj Ly Sets Fire to Modern Paris in Kinetic Debut

Pointedly repurposing the title of Victor Hugo’s classic novel about the laws of nature and grace, Ladj Ly’s “Les Misérables” bears little outward resemblance to the epic story of Jean Valjean and his stolen loaf of bread. But Ly’s first narrative feature — a gripping and grounded procedural that probes the tensions between Paris’ anti-crime police and the poor Muslim population they torment and suppress — revisits the French suburb of Montfermeil in the present day, and finds that little has changed in the 150 years since Hugo first characterized the strife he saw through his bedroom window.

Extended from Ly’s short of the same name, and inspired by the riots that erupted at the foot of the filmmaker’s building in 2005, “Les Misérables” vibrates with the kind of unshakeable verisimilitude that can only be earned through first-hand experience. At the same time, it’s not like the movie

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