HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Beauty and the Beast
HTS Overall Score:74
The tale of “Beauty and the Beast” is one that’s old as time (hehe, sorry, I couldn’t resist), and one that has bene adapted a dozen different ways from the original fairy tale. It’s been put on film, into verse, into rhyme and on live stage productions as well with exceptional results. While I have an incredibly soft spot in my heart for Disney’s animated version (I can pretty much sing every song by heart), my favorite rendition of the romance between lady and beast is the 1946 version that Criterion has out on Blu-ray. However, no matter WHAT telling of the story, there is a strange habit for the creators to leave out some pieces of the original story, instead focusing on certain aspects of the fairy tale and missing out on others. Christophe Gans retelling of the tale is closer in detail to the original fairytale than most others that have come before it, but it is also not without pitfalls and weaknesses of its own.
We all know the basic story by heart, but Christophe Gans retelling puts a more “classic” twist to the retelling. We open the film with an unknown woman reading a fairy tale to her two young children (it doesn’t take a genius to know that it’s actually Belle, despite not completely seeing her face) about a land far away in a time not so long ago. In this land there lived a rich merchant who lost his entire fortune due to some poor business decisions and a nasty sea storm taking his ships away from him. Left penniless and with nowhere else to go, this merchant leaves for the countryside with his 3 sons and 3 daughters. While the rest of the family starts to squabble and complain about their lack of finery, the youngest daughter, Belle, shines as the one saving grace of the family. A kind-hearted soul who thrives no matter what situation they’re in, and earns the coveted spot of daddy’s favorite as a result.
Sadly the eldest son owes a great amount of money to a local scoundrel, which leads to an event where Belle’s father has to escape his clutches and dives straight into the deep forest. There he runs into our titular beast, who threatens to enslave the old man for picking a rose. Giving him one day to say goodbye to his family, the beast sends him back on his way. Upon hearing the tale of woe, Belle slips out and returns to the castle alone, effectively taking her father’s punishment on her shoulders. There she becomes the prisoner of the Beat, lonely creature who has been cursed for centuries due to his own arrogance and lack of love for a woman who held him most dear. Here in the cursed castle of the prince turned beast, Belle and the monster learn that beauty is not what is without, but what is within.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=91898[/img]This 2014 rendition of the classic fairy tale really does stick closer to the source material than any other movie I’ve seen. Instead of the modern twist of having the Beast cursed by a witch for being basically a jerk, it’s a moving tale (told to Belle via a mysterious being of which I’ll not ruin the surprise of) of a man become so overcome by his own arrogance that he loses the very thing that makes his life worth living, and is cursed as a result. I absolutely adored that they made his curse last CENTURIES (something which was always a logical flaw in the Disney animated film where a prince and a castle were completely forgotten about by the villagers over the course of about a decade. Not exactly believable), but there is a disconnect in the second act. The beast is a lonely creature (played by Vincent Cassel) who is desperate for someone to love him so that he can break his curse. Instead of being angry and petulant, there is a horrible desperation to him that is pitiable as you start to realize he is just as much a victim in their little dance as he is the instigator. However, as pitiable as he is, Belle (played by the lovely Lea Seydoux) doesn’t go through a carefully documented change of heart for her captor like in other renditions. Up until the very end when she comes back there doesn’t seem to be any change in her opinion of the beast, and it’s all over with too quickly. The whole premise of the fairytale (that love comes from within and not what you look like) is almost completely ignored as her change from revulsion to love seems like someone just flipped a switch in her instead of an organic change of heart after spending time with the true him.
There’s a few odds and ends that feel a bit odd (like the scoundrel that her family owes money to and his ending), but overall the differing twist with the Beast’s curse and some fantastic acting by all involved make this version of “Beauty and the Beast” one of the more enjoyable NON Disney experiences out there. Vincent Cassel does wonders as the Beast, but it’s Lea Seydoux that just steals the show as the lovely and innocently sensual Belle. She exudes that inner beauty that the character is known for (despite the fairly non believable character shift in the third act), and the set design is one of the most unique and alluring aspects to the foreign film.
Rated PG-13 for some fantasy violence, sensuality and partial nudity
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=91906[/img]“Beauty and the Beast” comes to Blu-ray with a rather interesting looking 1080p encode. The style is rather different than what I was expecting, with large portions of the film looking drab and desaturated, with blues and greys dominating the colors. However, those drab moments are usually contrasted with sharp bursts of color, such as Belle’s ruby red lips, or the golden sparkle of the magical waters, or the blood red of a rose amidst the grey gnarled bushes. Belle’s dresses always standout against the drabness, acting as focal point for the eye, which is drawn to the lavishness amidst such squalor. Fine detailing is impressive, but never really AMAZINGLY sharp, as there seems to be an odd softness that accompanies the hazy fog that surrounds the castle. Black levels are strong and healthy, with only minimal banding to obstruct the view. It’s a nice looking encode, but one that is a bit strange compared to what we’re normally used to.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=91914[/img]Shout Factory follows its usual pattern of proving both a 5.1 DTS-HD MA track AND a 2.0 DTS-HD MA lossless track as well, however this time it’s a PAIR of pairs (so to speak) as we get those two tracks in BOTH English and the original French language. Personally, I give the edge to the French track not only because I’m a fan of original audio tracks, but because it feels a bit richer and fuller than the English track for some reason (and the English sports some annoying dubs in French accents). The LFE is probably the strongest point in the mix, as the movie pounds away at the low end of the auditory spectrum from the crashing waves that open up the film, to the thundering footsteps of the giant rock men at the end of the film. On the flip side, while the LFE is pretty unrelenting throughout (there’s plenty of opportunities for heave bass), it doesn’t get as deep or guttural as I felt it could have. A slight oddity that just niggles at the back of your mind. Still, the changes in direction and the use of surrounds makes for a wildly engaging track on that end, with amazing shifting effects as well as a beautiful score that fills out all the remaining channels with grace and elegance. Dialog is strong and located firmly in the center of the track, sometimes pushing most of the effort into that channel and giving the surrounds a break for intermittent periods of time.
• Interview with Director Christophe Gans
• Interview with Vincent Cassel
• Interview with Léa Seydoux
• Theatrical Trailer
Will this version of “Beauty and the Beast” knock the Disney animated film or the 1946 French “original” off of their pedestals? No, but I have to say that I was really drawn to this one despite the mixed reviews, and was really glad Shout Factory pulled his one over to the states, as it is a fun watch with a different take on the story. The lavish French costuming is something that any fan of period pieces will love to death, and the inclusion of Lea Seydoux makes for an enthralling experience. I fully recognize that there are some distinct flaws to the storytelling, but the overall experience is still a highly enjoyable one. The Blu-ray sports some solid audio and video scores, but the extras are just a tad slim for my tastes (especially considering Shout is known for their abundance of extras). Definitely worth checking out in my opinion.
Starring: Vincent Cassel, Lea Seydoux, Andre Dussollier
Directed by: Christophe Gans
Written by: Sanda Vo-Anh, Christopher Gans
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS-HD MA 2.0, French DTS-HD MA 5.1, French DTS-HD MA 2.0
Studio: Shout Factory
Runtime: 113 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: February 21st, 2017
Buy Beauty and the Beast On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Good Watch
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