Thursday, February 13, 2014

'La Belle et La Bête' 2014: First Reviews, More Concept Art & a Lovely Color Script

Gans' La Belle et La Bête is in theaters in France - and so far, it's doing very well. While there are bound to be some criticisms the overall response has been excellent, with many saying it's a tribute to French filmmaking. People seem to agree that the visuals are stunning throughout and it definitely has a fairy tale feel separate from Cocteau's La Belle et La Bête. I've yet to read much on the story execution though...

By the way, I'm peppering this post with more newly released concept art from the official concept artist for the film, Francois Baranger, and after the jump I'll put the color scripts, in case you are worried about spoilers (they're minimal but still...).

I'm using a lot of excerpts from a French review so you get a good overview but without spoilers (translated - not by me - so expect some rather flowery use of language). While you might assume the article was favorable, you have to admit, this headline is pretty impressive; perhaps even sensational:
Cocteau can rest in peace...
If taken as a whole, the film Christophe Gans certainly can not be reduced to a pile of moviegoers references and aesthetic refinement. This is especially respectful and deeply attached to sensations cinephile, images and details that diffusely print in indelible ink on the mind, like fragments that will act transcribe as narrative and not as parts winks (Gans is not Tarantino). 

For a filmmaker like Gans, hardcore cinephile before he was a journalist for the magazine Starfix, filmmaking is not a machine to satisfy the ego or tool without any commercial value: it is an area that it is to preserve, beautify and share. The idea of a new version of "Beauty and the Beast" was no more crazy than any another. No less than five different adaptations (including the studio of Uncle Walt) have emerged since the release of the masterpiece by Jean Cocteau in 1946, and the base material remained even more conducive to eternal variations on the subject that origins of this "fairy-like" are still vague (version 1757 written by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, is now considered the basis of adaptations that followed).   
The content of the story, namely the meeting of a beautiful young woman and a terrifying beast, immediately reveals two levels of reading: the distinction between physical and moral ugliness ugliness, but also the ability to perceive purity of feelings behind the vilest appearances. True to this reading, Christophe Gans therefore seized the original material to thicken the scenario already very close to that written by Cocteau, another narrative layer, based on the taming mainly visual, symbolic and purely aesthetic a universe, which was already the case with his previous films. Beyond a plot that respects each letter of agreement fairy tale and initiatory journey, Gans focuses all its efforts on the staging of wanted a credible and conducive to world wonder purest. His staging favors immersion through a dazzling musical score and always moving camera, wedding every moment emotional variations of the two characters (the perfect symbiosis being reached at the time of their common dance scene), the appropriate integration of flashbacks perfectly brought by staging tricks which comes all the lexical field of "passing on the other side of the mirror" (nice reference to cinema Cocteau) and revealing a spectrum of emotions so vast that all public the young and old, will not have to strain to renew the imagination.  
Those who want to dazzle the eyes have plenty to see, and it will be the same for those who like to draw a darker tone and adult in a universe tale. Actors, far from being reduced to puppets meant to serve soup to huge sets, are of great accuracy in their partition, never forcing or overplaying (Léa Seydoux and Vincent Cassel show here a simple and natural game). Just may do you wince on the characterization of the Dussollier family, especially the two sisters (played by Audrey Lamy and Sara Giraudeau), reduced to caricatures pipelettes incarnations. But again, hard to see a real default as the cruelty of evil played by Eduardo Noriega, this kind of detail Manichean is fully within the archetypal tale for children.  
Among his influences in the design of the graphic film, Gans fond of quoting movies Hayao Miyazaki. Risky compared by a French filmmaker who does still not the genius of Japanese filmmaker, but not so trivial that the work of Miyazaki on creating a rich magical world of legends and mythologies can now be regarded as a clear benchmark for filmmakers. At first glance, references are embedded here and there in small steps.For example, the path of his father, lost in a snowstorm and arrived suddenly in the enchanted domain of the Beast, quite inevitably refers to a key scene of "My Neighbor Totoro", where the little girl away from her habitat and fell into an enchanted cave where she found Totoro. Similarly, small "Tadums" that haunt the corners of the castle of the Beast evoke in many aspects of the benevolent kami "Princess Mononoke". And what about this vision of the sacred animal, whose murder by the prince will be the catalyst of an imbalance between nature and man, reducing it to the status of Beast ravaged by suffering? The situation of the beast and his possible return to normal thanks to Belle join the final statement of "Howl's Moving Castle" : regardless of age or appearance, it is the truth of our feelings that reveals our own inner truth.  
After two hours of projection, the total success of the project is the result of a rather unexpected explosion, especially in a French industry less focused on the desire to open the imagination of its audience and stimulate the desire for adventure in all generations. By deploying an unprecedented visual richness in the French cinema and successfully married the poetic work of Cocteau to the magic of the Disney cartoon, Christophe Gans has completely won his bet a large popular movie, quick to reconcile all public and all sensitivities.
! The writer recognized multiple homages to Miyazaki and Cocteau, the former regarding specific movies, the latter regarding filmic sensibilities!

OK, wait. You probably have no real idea why that's exciting, apart from being favorably compared to Miyazaki (and Cocteau) being an all-round excellent thing. Although the reviewer may be a Gans' fan and aware of his film goals, the fact is, to be able to point those out must be making the Director feel very good right about now. Let me quote Gans talking to Variety so you understand what I mean by 'film goals':
My secret dream is that, visually, Beauty and the Beast is like no other magical film. But if I have to admit affiliation, it will be poetic about ... Before you even begin to write a line in the script, my co-writer Sandra Vohan and I asked ourselves a simple question: what are the works that we believe embody the more force the notion of magic today The answer did not take two seconds: cartoons 's Hayao Miyazaki ! Because they are built on a system of human values, ecological civilization, the Japanese master works have transcended cultural barriers pose to international public quintessential magical feeling. Modestly, we have written Beauty and the Beast in the shadow of this giant (Miyazaki)"!
Even a review that is more critical (and not as exuberant) still comes across positively overall. I like the perspective and context this reviewer adds:
Gans’ film is more likely to suffer from direct comparisons (to Cocteau's Beauty & the Beast), though, simply because it’s French. Cocteau’s version of the tale isn’t just a Criterion-worthy classic and triumph of the film-maker’s art – it’s nothing less than a national monument, cobbled together on minimal resources while the country was still reeling from the bitter legacy of the Second World War and the Nazi occupation, a shining vision amidst the post-war gloom and deprivation. 

It’s not surprising, therefore, that the further the new film strays from Cocteau’s scenario, the more fun it becomes, though the fun is not necessarily of the high-tone kind. This is fine; Gans is not known for art movies... 
...there’s little point in setting out a blow-by-blow comparison to Cocteau’s film. The new version is a different beast entirely, so let us try to approach it on its own terms...
I won't add any more because it's very specific regarding scenes and details. Although the writer says they're not spoilery, I would consider them to be partially so (aka, "yes, they are!"). If you are still interested to read it (note: there is a bulleted list at the end of likes and dislikes which might taint you in one direction or another, so consider yourself warned), you can read it HERE.

UPDATE 8pm, Thursday 2-13-14: 
I found another French review on the opposite end of the scale - ie. thumbs down! It only gave the film one star (out of five) BUT it made multiple (mostly favorable) comparisons to Guillermo del Toro's Labyrinth, which the reviewer clearly considers a filmic masterpiece (though it said it lacked del Toro's mastery of story and ability to say something in film) and said it was undeniably beautiful throughout. Basically it came down to: stunning and interesting but without much soul; beautiful images and wonderful scenes but not much to say with regard to the complexities of the story and couple. So maybe, "ooh pretty", but unsatisfying and shallow?  

Ack. I don't care. I admit it: the marketing has won me over (apart from the weirdly big-eyed puppy-pokemons, which I find off-putting). I still want to see this!

And now for the color scripts, which might also be considered partially spoilery, which is why they're after the jump... >>>>>
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Just beautiful work! (click to view large)

And no - STILL no news on a release date for English speaking countries anywhere. *double-headdesk*


  1. Wow. The clips you posted are amazing. The details are breathtaking. I would love to see how it looks in film.

    1. Just to let you know, an Art book is being published on 28th February, it contains beautiful concept art and many behind the scenes photos.

    2. Hi!
      Excuse me...where can i buy the artbook of this film?

  2. Gah!! The trailers and teasers are driving me crazy!! I want to see this movie!! I HAVE to see this movie! I hope it comes over to Canada (with subtitles, that would be great) soon!!! The concept art looks amazing and from what I can see from the trailers, the film captures the fantasy beautifully. As for story, well, ship an Eng Sub version over here and we can figure that one out too. I hope they do. =)

  3. I would love to be able to see this. I cannot find any information to suggest that it is going to be released over here and I really want the DVD when it does finally have a release date.

  4. I just answered another comment on another post about this: basically - no english in sight ANYWHERE. (I think it's driving us all a little nuts.) French Blu-ray release is June 26, 2014 & still no English-speaking-country-compatible releases noted, including Canada. I should just put all the info available in a post since so many are wondering.