Don’t be expecting Disney animation or singing village folk as this French take on the classic fairy tale gives its audience the same romantic tale but with a mild twist of danger, slight melodrama and subtitles. It’s a good enough film to watch but it’s very slow to get anywhere and it’s not nearly as good as I was hoping this world cinema take to be.
After losing all his money and possessions a merchant moves ship to the countryside with his children, amongst those is Belle (Lea Seydoux) who becomes the figure of a deal after the merchant takes a rose from the home of the Beast (Vincent Cassel). He would have been killed but the shadowy monster will accept the presence of his youngest daughter instead and, as she lives in his domain Belle learns more about the Beast leading her to find a path for possible true love.
It all looks very grand and glittering with each shot looking gloriously crafted, the French city gives us the snowier grimier side of life compared to the riches we then see at the merchant’s emptying house. It’s when the Beast’s landscape comes into play that the true beauty of the film becomes apparent. There are shifting forests, wide gardens with climbable trees piercing the sky, the castle resembles a Hogwarts like environment with stony walls and walkways peppering the scenery. It’s a film that gives us imagery to mirror the once bourgeois lifestyle Belle, her siblings and father had.
However in contrast to this praising of the look of the film there are some niggles with CGI being pulled up in front of the jury. I give it to you that a brooding beautiful tale with fantastic French actors doesn’t need to have so much computer trickery. I will run away with this court analogy and declare CGI in this film guilty of ruining the magic. It could have been in smaller doses but with big eyed beagles and deer running around it looks too gimmicky and loses the passion the film was building up.
Another issue is knowing the story this is based on leaves the first part of this film wide open for boredom, it would be alright if their way to set up the movie was interesting or dealt with quicker but alas it’s not really. You’re just tapping your feet waiting for the Beast to show up and then it becomes a good film of taming personalities, understanding pasts and falling in love, of course the ending too is wishy washy but that’s the outcome of this romantic plot, you can’t be mad at that inevitable fact. One more weakness was the decision of the story being read out, there’s no fun gasp to be had at seeing who is delivering the tale of Belle and the Beast as we can damn clearly see from the lower half of the face who it is. That could have been a good little end note to unravel the reader of the book.
There’s mysterious, fun, stirring and dark music by Pierre Adenot which at times sounds very ‘Harry Potter’ in tone of mischievous score, especially as Belle wanders the castle being followed by a pack of tiny dogs. Christophe Gans does direct a sprawling adaption of the traditional tale but there’s no impact of romance or danger that tests us, the only test is sitting through the entire thing not once getting bored. It’s a shame considering the acting talent and the scope for more to play with but this film aside from moments of visual delights feels limp.
Cassel and Seydoux do little more than run or walk through the scenes with their paper thin characters not substantial enough to chew up the scenery. For such classy actors as these two you wonder how they felt acting in such a sparkless bosom heaving rehash. Your honour I present to you exhibit A, a love story retold unnecessarily or at the very least unimaginatively.
Not overly exciting or haunting as it definitely could have been, a sad state of affairs to be honest with only minor things lifting it from complete boredom inducing messiness.