Every Combeferre. Ever.
If you thought adaptation Enjolrati are a funny-looking lot, you haven’t seen adaptation Combeferres yet. An eclectic bunch, to say the least. At least, unlike Enjolras, Combeferre isn’t specifically given a physical description in the novel, so the variation is a little more explicable. Now, their takes on the character, on the other hand…
These guys definitely aren’t as hilariously bad as the Enjolrati, though, and sometimes there’s not much to say about them. I’ll say what I can.
Again, in chronological order:
^^^1925 French silent movie. I think this is him, but not completely sure, since none of the students but Enjolras are explicitly named in this version. I mean, it’s a silent movie. In the earliest versions, Combeferre is often next to impossible to pick out from the crowd. He will soon learn that this will often be his fate over the years.
^^^1934 French movie. Again, he’s never specified by name, but I think this may as well be him; right here he’s busy singing Combeferre’s song (”Si César m’avait donné…”). But then again, in this version Grantaire is some Courfeyrac-ish confidant/teaser of Marius as well as a super-dedicated patriot, soooo……I love how unimpressed Marius (bottom right) looks here, as if he somehow knows that this song is against him in the book. (Also, a bit off-topic: did people ragging on Tom Hooper for too many dutch angles in his Les Mis even watch this version? Good grief! When I watch this I feel like someone knocked the camera askew and just never bothered to right it again…….for the whole movie. But it’s French, so that’s “art,” right…? :P)
^^^1957 French movie. Definitely him this time. But…um…okay, can’t think of any reason why he’s not cool, but is it too shallow to protest against balding Combeferre? He does get to visit Gavroche at the latter’s hang-out, though, so he must be all sorts of cool to be able to score entrance into the secret kid clubhouse. And there he gets introduced to Eponine and Azelma and is every bit the gentleman, so there’s that. :) (Though he does have the indignity of being called “Monsieur Fauchelevant” in the subtitled version of that scene, despite Gavroche clearly saying “Combeferre”…)
^^^1964 Italian movie/miniseries, I Miserabili. Ugh, so hot it hurts. The makers of this miniseries obviously had a soft spot for Combeferre, because they’ve made him of the “assertive Combeferre” variety, the sort who is more like a joint leader with Enjolras than a follower of Enjolras. They’re also a little flirty, in basically the same vein as 2007 Shoujo Cosette (see below).
^^^1971 Spanish (Castilian) telenovela. He’s never explicitly named as Combeferre, but he does have a mini-version of Combeferre’s plea at the barricade for the five family men to save themselves. He also pretty much acts like a Combeferre throughout (i.e., as a second to Enjolras). Must be some kind of superhuman badass, because he’s basically the last person alive on the barricade (not counting shirtless Russell Brand, but that’s a story for another day). He insists on wearing a phrygian cap 24/7 and looks pretty much like the most obvious rabble-rousing socialist republican ever–surprised the cops never picked him up on that alone. Police profiling not a thing back then?
^^^1972 French miniseries. Enjolras’ evil twin. Also, does not believe in wearing sufficient clothing on barricades. Also, inexplicably pissy all the time (see also: Angry Peter Jackson below). There aren’t words for how wrong-headed I think this version’s interpretation of Combeferre is. A Combeferre is serious, but not grumpy. A Combeferre gently speaks up if he disagrees with someone, he doesn’t glower. Even beyond general demeanor, the whole role is just wrong. It’s like everything this Combeferre says and does is designed to be the polar opposite of what book!Combeferre would say and do:
Book!Ferre, when told that barricade will fail: *gives impassioned speech to try to convince fathers of families to save themselves*
1972!Ferre, when told that barricade will fail: “Let us make a protestation of corpses!”
^^^1980 French comédie musicale. Yeah, apparently that’s him………Wow, is it just me, or is he, like, incredibly sexy…? I mean, no offense, book!Ferre, but…wow…….To be fair, his character in this version was apparently some kind of amalgamation of himself and Courfeyrac (i.e., Combeferre was Marius’ BFF). I’m assuming it was in the musical’s transition to Britain that Enjolras took on the tasks of Courfeyrac, and Combeferre went back to being, well, Combeferre. But in the meantime, let’s just bask in his velvety-coat, guyliner, shaggy-haired glam rocker hotness.
^^^1982 French movie. You’re perfect, sir, don’t change. There’s a scene where he’s playing chess and reading a book at the same time on the barricade (like, literally on it), and only pauses in his match/book to gently but firmly scold Marius while fumbling awkwardly around with his spectacles. Nuff said.
Speaking of which, is this the first appearance of Combeferre with spectacles…? Unbelievable that it took that long!
^^^1985-present, British stage musical. Little more than an ensemble role. (Pictured above: Graham Rowat, American 3rd National Tour, probably one of the best musical!Ferres ever, or at least the only one I ever saw who actually cared deeply about book!Ferre.)
^^^1988 wtf i don’t know. Known in my house as Angry Peter Jackson. In this version, there was no Enjolras (!) and Combeferre took over that role of barricade leader (!!). This whole version is probably one of the worst examples of animation I have ever had the displeasure of watching.
^^^1992 French animated series. Shouldn’t you and Enjolras exchange character designs? In this scene, he’s all bummed cuz he’s being scolded by Gillenormand at the barricade–that should say everything that needs to be said about the absurdity of this adaptation.
^^^2007 Japanese animated series, Les Misérables: Shoujo Cosette (レ・ミゼラブル 少女コゼット). Too cool for his own good (see also: 1964 Italian above). To be precise, a kuuru megane anime stereotype:
(Pictured above: the same damn character, even practically the same character design. I could probably give half a dozen other anime/manga examples exactly the same.)
For all his coolness, Shoujo Cosette Combeferre is attached at the hip to Enjolras, and is a bit of a flirt moreover. “Hey, Enjolras, you’re totally coming to my place for a sleepover, right?” It must be a committed relationship, though: he wants Enjolras to meet the parents. Enjolras doesn’t seem so keen on it…
^^^2009 Japanese manga. I am just going to be a stereotyper and assume this background dude with spectacles is Combeferre. He does absolutely nothing in this manga.
^^^2010 French bande dessinée. Whoa. Mario, shouldn’t you be out plumbing my toilet or fighting Koopas or something? (Srsly, tho, is this how the French see Combeferre………? I mean, really??)
^^^2012 American-British movie musical. KillianFerre. Inexplicably pissy/excitable all the time. The Courfeyrac of Combeferres. At least he is pretty indisputably good-looking. Also dat coat…!
Actually, his whole costume kinda rocked, but more on that some other time…
^^^2014 American manga. The “him” in this speech bubble meaning Enjolras, of course–nothing like a Combeferre hanging around ready to undermine everything Enjolras says. This Combeferre is actually pretty cute. He’s like Enjolras’ nice friend, who, when Enjolras is done verbally abusing Marius, is there to dry Marius’ tears.
^^^2014-2015 Japanese manga. He wears a straight-jacket because, well, Enjolras. So far he seems to be on the kuuru side of Combeferres again, because if the French see Combeferre as Mario, the Japanese see him as some kind of quiet badass aniki. (On that note, I’m actually really surprised he doesn’t have spectacles in this version.) It doesn’t hurt that he also had to shut down Marius’ bonapartist ranting in this version, so that immediately upped his kuuru factor.
Final thoughts? Hm. Some are very good, some are…not. Many never existed at all or are simply hypotheses. Such is the step-down from an Enjolras to a Combeferre: you have a greatly lessened probability of making it into a Les Mis adaptation. Even when they make it into a version, they’re rarely allowed to actually develop a consistent character. I think 1964Italian, 1982French, and (sigh) Shoujo Cosette were probably the best versions for Combeferre. 1972French is the most actively painful (though Angry Peter Jackson sucks too). The rest are non-entities. So…not a bad average…?