Silver Screen Resolution, Take Two: Beauty and the Beast

For my 2018 Resolution Project, I decided to take a page out of Lane’s book and do my own Silver Screen Resolution (hence the Take Two part of the title). There are a lot of movies out there I haven’t seen but feel like I should have, or movies that I’ve simply wanted to see and have yet to get around to it. With a deadline of some kind, now I’ll have to finally make a point to find them, get them, and watch them. My rules for the resolution are slightly different in that:

  1. They must be spec-fic (this has not changed).
  2. The movie will not be one that is in theaters or that would be part of a Sound Off!
  3. They don’t have to be popular — or even something folks have heard about.

But I’ve decided to take my resolution to the next level as well, since I had more than 12 movies on my list that I wanted to see. And since we’re in “Take Two” mode, I might as well up the ante: I will instead be seeing two spec fic movies per month rather than just one. For the month of February, why not get all thematic and lovey-dovey, starting with Beauty and the Beast, but not the one you’re all familiar with.

I stumbled upon this movie while scrolling through Netflix’s list of Fantasy movies. At first I though I’d found the live-action Disney version, but then realized this was a completely different version. A French one, in fact. So technically it’s La Belle et la Bête. Out of sheer curiosity, I put it on and was very quickly intrigued by what I saw.

Beware – I’m going to spoil everything.

This Beauty and the Beast was made in 2014 featuring Léa Seydoux (Inglorious Basterds, Spectre) as Belle and Vincent Cassel (Black Swan, Elizabeth) as the Prince. At first I couldn’t remember where I’d seen either of them, but it’s always fun to see a foreign film and still recognize the actors/actresses in some fashion.

Based in part on the original tale, this particular movie shows how Belle’s father went from wealthy merchant to humble farmer. Belle is okay with this, relishing the French countryside while her two sisters miss the hustle and bustle of the city (and their wealthy status). Here Belle also has three brothers who seem rather indifferent to the whole situation, but come with their own set of issues. As per usual, Belle’s father goes off with the intent to travel into the city, gets lost, and finds a stunning palace filled with roaring fires and delicious food. Before he leaves, to fulfill Belle’s wish of a single red rose rather than fancy gowns like her sisters, he takes one from the gardens. This rose stealing prompts the Beast into action, demanding le marchand (Belle’s dad doesn’t have a name in this version) return in a few days to become his captor forever.

Naturally, Belle takes his place.

This is where the story starts to diverge — in some good ways and some not-so-good/confusing ways.

A feast fit for a Prince. Or Beast. Or in this case, an old man.

The Good

I really, really liked the setting they created for the story. Both the CGI parts (ok, most of the CGI parts) and then actual sets. It’s all quite fantastical and the movie itself is worth watching just to see all the cool things they created for it. In some ways it reminded me of Legend with the amount of fantasy packed in the designs. From the ivy-covered castle itself to the frosty woodlands to the magical mirrors Belle touches in order to discover the Beast’s story, it’s all very beautiful and enchanting. It’s definitely my favorite piece of the entire film.

Speaking of the Beast’s story, I really like that as well. Rather than him just being a narcissistic asshole, he actually had a wife before. And while he loved her dearly, he also loved to hunt the golden hind in the forest, one day hoping to catch it despite promising his wife he would stop. One day he succeeds — only to discover the creature was a nymph of the forest and his wife. She took human form in order to experience love. With her death, her father the God of the Forest is very unhappy, but she begs him to spare her love. So instead of killing him, the God of the Forest lays the curse upon him. It’s a very nice element to the story that makes things much more interesting.

The God of the Forest gives him an interesting look, too. I can appreciate the enormous amount of time I don’t doubt went into Beast’s makeup. You can kind of tell his super-fancy red outfit is made purposely to help keep his lion head steady. But I approve of his very lion-esque design. Complete with long, tufted tail. I like that they went with this concept rather than just making making him a strange conglomeration of animals to create one ugly beast. I think because here, he’s a beast for what he does, rather than because he’s an awful person.

The movie as a whole is quite enjoyable with all its different elements. One of Belle’s brothers owes some ruffians some money, and these are the men who eventually gallop to the castle, invade it, and attempt to kill the Beast. And while the ending is the same as usual, what I didn’t expect was for the Prince to stop being a Prince and instead go live with Belle on the adorable little farm. But it was a nice twist and I appreciated it.

The Not-So-Good

You’d think that with this being Beauty and the Beast, it would be a love story. While technically it still is, it’s also…not. The interaction between the Beast and Belle was very limited and not very romantic. Most of the time Belle was still wary of him, even when being sassy against his anger. The Beast was always angry, which never really made a whole lot of sense given how he became a beast. Since he wasn’t ever a jerk (the interactions between himself and his previous wife were lovely), I guess he’s just mad about being a Beast? But it’s not just that. It’s some of the things he actively does that’s a major turnoff.

For example, at one point Belle goes up to the Beast’s tower and witnesses him eating a fresh kill like a lion. This freaks her out so bad she runs away and ends up on a frozen lake. The Beast has chased her, and then pounces on the back of her dress which knocks her down so hard she hits the back of her head on the ice. Honestly, Belle should have been out cold from that smack. And then the Beast attempts to kiss her. What the hell? She’s only saved from a kiss that she’s clearly not interested in by the ice breaking beneath her where she’s plunged into frigid water and then rescued from hypothermia by the Beast.

Yep. Just what I want in a man.

So I don’t see why Belle ever fell for the Beast. Sure, when she’s shown who he was in the past he’s a good person and pretty attractive to boot. But after he’s the Beast he never really does anything worthy of her love. Yeah, I get it, you’re angry. But I’m not going to love you if you can’t stop being an asshole. The whole concept is the main plot of the movie, so it was disappointing to see it fall so short.

The Confusing

There are a definitely some confusing bits in this movie. The first being the strange little monkey-dog creatures. In the original tale, the castle is not inhabited by anything but the Beast himself. So I guess this movie decided to take a page out of Disney’s book and populate it with weird CGI creatures that don’t ever do anything despite Belle stating that they would be her great companions (they never even hang out together). What’s more, despite them showing an astounding amount of intelligence, at the end we find out they’re nothing more than the Prince’s hunting beagles. Weird.

Seriously, what the heck? IT MADE A DOLL.

The castle also has giant statues that get into the battle with the thieves later on. It’s never stated who/what they are, though my guess is they were the Prince’s hunting buddies. But once the curse is lifted, none of them ever appear again. Along with that, you never know what happened to all the people that lived in the castle. Did they move out? Where they transformed into something we never see? Did they get un-cursed later on? Instead we’re left in the dark as to what the heck went on with them.

At the end of the movie when the Beast takes his fatal hit, a whole lot of vines come out of the ground to attack everyone, and I mean everyone. Bad guys. Belle’s brothers. Belle. The Beast. I have no idea what these vines are from or why they’re doing this. It makes absolutely no sense.

The Verdict?

Go ahead and watch it. I prefer subtitles on with the original French language, but to each his own. At the bare minimum, it’s a very pretty movie, and I think anyone that likes fantasy would appreciate what this movie has to offer in that department. And hey, since it’s on Netflix, it’s not like you’re paying anything extra to watch it.

Images provided by Nicole Taft.

1 Comment

  • Weasel of Doom February 1, 2018 at 9:51 am

    Sounds intriguing!


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