I know I'm probably going to take some heat for this, but I've watched this movie three times now, very carefully, and I still don't understand what's so wonderful about it. Though this is indeed a version of the "Beauty and the Beast" fairy-tale based on Beaumont's novel, a number of silly subplots muddy things, and character motivations are never explained. I can't even count how many times I rolled my eyes over the course of this movie, because of the gaps in logic and character inconsistencies. If you start thinking about even one of these problems, half a dozen or so will press themselves forward, protesting their relation to it. If you're lucky, they'll all stay trapped in your head. If you're unlucky, they'll escape and start gnawing the furniture.
The title credits contain an injunction to be more "childlike" and open-minded before seeing the movie, since "children believe everything they're told, without question" (not true, but that's a separate point), and this story is (apparently) set in a child-centric world. One thing I retain from my childhood is my dislike of being told what to do and how to think. Any goodwill this movie might have had from me for being financially/technically limited in various ways was just—pfft—gone, after that. It's a cheat, and a lie. Worse, it's an order ("Be enchanted, damn you!").
So, we got off on the wrong foot. That doesn't mean my relationship to this movie couldn't—conceivably—have improved from there. The first scene is promising: Ludovic (Belle's feckless brother) and Avenant (Belle's suitor, precursor to Disney's Gaston) are playing shooting games outside, and very narrowly miss killing one of Belle's evil stepsisters. Belle's father, a merchant, is half-ruined and deeply in debt; his son Ludovic is a "wastrel" who digs them even further into a hole, and the two spoiled sisters care only about wealth and social standing. Belle is cast as a Cinderella figure, "forced" to work because of her father's reduced circumstances. (I prefer the traditional character's *willingness* to help, since it is so in keeping with the story
but I digress.) Avenant, her feckless suitor, offers to take her away from it all and grabs her (why? To carry her off?) when she says no. Ludovic breaks things up.
Belle's father finds out that one of his ships has docked, and goes to see if he can fetch the goods before they get impounded by his creditors. On his way back, he gets lost and stops at a castle that seems to be uninhabited except for disembodied hands that live in the walls and furniture. (For the record: If I ever entered that house and was forced to stay there, I would find a place in the center of the largest room where the hands couldn't reach me, and stay there until I died; that's how repulsed and freaked out I'd be.)
His initial confrontation with the Beast is so ludicrous that I actually wept with laughter. Not only does the Beast give him fifteen minutes to prepare for death(!), not only does the Beast look ludicrous (not just for 1946; I don't care if Marais spent 5 hours in makeup a day), and not only does the Beast have the voice of a woman who's smoked for 30+ years—to top it off, he's trussed up fancier than the vainest royal personage you'll ever see. What happened to the "Beast" part of this story? We don't find out until later that the Beast became the Beast because his parents "didn't believe in fairies/magic"—which is, incidentally, the dumbest reason for becoming a Beast in any version of the legend—it's even worse than the original story's reason. In it, a fairy turned him into a hideous beast after he refused to let her in from the rain.
Later on, he also apologizes "for being a Beast." Why? Even if he's lying and he actually became a Beast because he broke into the Temple of Diana--why? For eating a deer? He's a "Beast.* We shouldn't apologize for who/what we are. If you aren't satisfied with yourself, don't ply me (or Belle, as the case is) with explanations and excuses and pleas for forgiveness. Change yourself, like the rest of us do, and stop griping.
Another strange thing is that even though Belle repulsed Avenant at the beginning—and even though he physically abused her—she still tells the Beast-turned-Prince that she was in love with him. What? *scratches head*
Acting is cartoonish and uninspired, as is the script. There is excessive politeness everywhere (not translated in the subtitles, but my French suffices to pick it up), even between the father and the usurer! I don't know if it's a French thing to be totally polite, constantly, to all one's countrymen, but I really rather doubt it. Dialogue in general is simple at best and clichéd at worst. I realize that we weren't very far from the age of silent movies in 1946, but geez—1952's "Pysna Princezna" was acted (and written) worlds better than this, and "Pysna" is another fairy-movie with some subversive themes, even though it was aimed at children.
People praise the visual style of "La Belle et la Bete" and forget that the movie makes no sense. What's wrong with people? Or with me? I wanted to like and/or understand this movie, but I don't think I ever will, though I've read scads of rave reviews. I don't mean to be harsh, or hate-spewing for the sake of it, but when I sought out helpful negative reviews of this movie (to compare with the hundreds of positive ones), there were very few to be found. So my purpose is twofold: to write that negative review, and to (hopefully) find out what I'm missing.
Slick cinematography (Alekan would go on to do one of my favorite movies, "Der Himmel über Berlin") and a haunting score by Georges Auric can't save this travesty of storytelling.
10 out of 19 found this helpful.
Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.