Sunday, February 5, 2017

****Disney Movie Review: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

This is an animated musical version of the Hunchback of Notre Dame a Victor Hugo story.  The Hunchback, Quasimodo (Tom Hulce) looks down on the city, but never is able to join in because of his confinement to Notre Dame, put on him by his master Frollo, the Minister of Justice (Tony Jay).  Frollo is obsessed with ridding the city of gypsies.  Frollo resents the sanctity of the Church, but had been forced to accept it when he killed Quasimodo's mother, a gypsy, and wanted to do the same with Quasimodo.  the Archdeacon (David Ogden Stiers) had intervened.  One of the people Quasimodo watches is Esmeralda, the gypsy dancer (Demi Moore and Heidi Mollenhauer.  Frollo also watches her, and is filled with passion which haunts him.  The last character is the Captain of the Guard, Phoebus (Kevin Kline).  He helps her escape from soldiers harassing gypsies.  Quasimodo finally ventures out of the church on All Fools Day.  Esmeralda discovers him, and promotes him for King of Fools, thinking it is a good thing.  However the people tie him up, and start pelting him with fruit.  He cries for relief from his master, who insists there is a lesson be learned.  It is Esmeralda who shows compassion, and challenges the Minister, freeing Quasimodo.  The Minister orders her arrest, and the Captain reluctantly pursues her.  She enters the church to hide, and when he The Captain finds her there, insists she claim sanctuary.  In this way she spends time with Quasimodo, who helps her to escape.  The reaction from the minister is to burn the city looking for her.  He is obsessed.  Either she is his, or she is dead, he cannot see any other way.  The final can only be tragic with such obsessive compassion haunted the Minister.
The highlight of the movie is the song from Esmeralda as she prays for nothing for herself but for her people the down trodden:
I don't know if You can hear me
Or if You're even there
I don't know if You would listen
To a gypsie's prayer
Yes, I know I'm just an outcast
I shouldn't speak to you
Still I see Your face and wonder...
Were You once an outcast too?

God help the outcasts
Hungry from birth

Show them the mercy
They don't find on earth
God help my people
We look to You still
God help the outcasts
Or nobody will

I ask for nothing
I can get by
But I know so many
Less lucky than I
Please help my people
The poor and downtrod
I thought we all were
The children of God
God help the outcasts
Children of God

Alan Menken wrote the music with lyrics by Stephen Schwartz.  The production was nominated for several Academy awards including best music.  The colors of the show make this film a work of art.  they use stained glass, and colors of the street, and the fire very effectively.  Also effective are the miniature figures and scene the Hunchback produces. 

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