Where are the dancing tea cups?!

by Martin Hafer

The story Beauty and the Beast is a classic. However, there is no one definitive version. Instead, it’s a folk tale that’s been passed down for generations until a very popular version was written by a couple women well over two centuries ago. And, since then, other versions have also been written. I mention this because if you watch ANY version of the story, you must accept that they will be different. This version is very different from the two most famous versions, Disney’s and Belle et Bête (1946) by Jean Cocteau…and that’s okay with me.

This new French version is different from many other versions because it concentrates much more on the family’s back story and how awful Belle’s siblings are. This is a highly dysfunctional family and the father seems oblivious to the monsters he’s helped to create. All are monsters, except for Belle. And eventually, you learn that the father isn’t all that wonderful either.

Beauty and the Beast
Directed by
Christophe Gans
Cast
Vincent Cassel, Léa Seydoux, André Dussollier
Release Date
2014
Martin’s Grade: B+


When he’s lost in the forest in the cold, he seeks shelter in what looks like an abandoned castle. However, after eating like a pig from the sumptuous dining table, the guy begins stealing stuff from the place. He says it’s because it’s abandoned…but the food was warm and obviously the guy was just a thief. On the way out, he stops to pick a single rose for his sweet daughter–and that is when the beast appears and tells him of his punishment. He will be allowed to return home to put his things in order, but he MUST return to be the creature’s prisoner. But, when Belle learns of this, she bolts to the castle–offering up herself instead. As for the rest of the tale, it’s NOT what you’d expect. There is a story involving Belle’s crappy brother and some money-lenders as well as the creature’s back story. Unlike most versions, this one slowly reveals bits and pieces of this sad tale and exactly why he’s been turned into a beast is quite strange. But again, since there is not one version of the story, such license is understandable.

So was this film worth seeing? Well, yes and no. It’s far from the best version I’ve seen but it is worth your time. Major pluses are how beautiful the film is in many places as well as a few changes to the generally accepted story. I appreciate how Belle’s father really DID deserve to be punished, whereas in other versions Beast just seems mean and unfair in punishing the old guy. But, what didn’t thrill me was the amount of extra story. With all the subplots and back story, so much of the romance between Belle and Beast is missing–and her falling for him seems to make far less sense. Plus, while some will love all the CG, I think after a while it was just too much–such as the HUGE creatures that appear at the end and start stomping on everyone as well as the bizarre crazy-eyed puppy creatures! I prefer a simpler version that is a bit smaller in scope and less intense. Call me a romantic at heart, but a bit less would have delivered so much more.