Maybe I’m a bad Beauty and the Beast fan, but I haven’t seen the 2017 Disney remake of Beauty and the Beast. I will at some point but it will probably be on DVD. I have nothing against Emma Watson and Dan Stevens but they’re not Belle and the Beast to me. I wasn’t impressed with their singing on the soundtrack. And frankly it’s not Disney’s Beauty and the Beast without Jerry Orbach and Angela Lansbury. I may change my mind when I see it but from what I’ve seen so far (trailers, behind the scenes features, clips etc) I’ve been unimpressed.
But there are a lot of Beauty and the Beast retellings on film that I feel are well done and worth a watch:
This French masterpiece directed by Jean Cocteau is surreal, dreamlike, lavish, and seductive. While it implores us in the begin to watch the film through childlike eyes, it’s tone is actually more mature than one might expect.
Tim Burton’s film features a lot of common images; the gothic castle, the angry mob… These are archetypes. But they’re contrasted with a very generic suburban setting that in it’s own way is weirder than anything happening up in the Inventor’s hilltop castle. At the same time we do feel a strong emotional connection between Kim, a lovely high school girl, and Edward, the boy who was invented by an old man who died before he could give his creation hands. As a result, the kind hearted Edward is more dangerous than he intends to be. It’s hard not to feel a bit choked up when Kim says “hold me,” and Edward simply says “I can’t”.
Disney’s animated musical adaptation featured singing tea pots, dancing candlesticks, and it worked. I always catch my breathe a bit when the Beast and Belle enter the ballroom and dance, as Angela Lansbury’s voice sings of a “Tale as old as time…”
This film is one of the few Beauty and the Beast stories to feature a gender reversal. Penelope is born with a pig nose as the result of a family curse. Unless she is loved by “one of her own kind” it will never break. Her wealthy parents try to set her up with boys from wealthy families (her own kind) without luck. But when a young heir disowned by his family is brought it, there is a sense that things might be different. It’s never that easy though, and Penelope leaves the shelter of her family home and ventures out into the world. She does find love, but one of the most important things that she learns is that “it’s not the power of the curse, it’s the power you give the curse”
At it’s worst, this Korean film features a villain who might as well twirl a mustache and carry a pitchfork. At it’s best it’s lovely and haunting. Sun-yi and her family move to the country in `1965 so that she can recover from an illness in the fresh air. She meets Chul-soo, a feral boy she finds in her backyard. Chul-soo has a 46 degree Celsius body temperature and an unidentifiable blood type. He can’t speak, and has inhuman strength. It’s presumed that he’s one of the 60,000 children orphaned in the Korean war. Chul soo isn’t a werewolf, or if he is, it’s never stated explicitly. But his behavior can be seen as that of a beast. But a beautiful one.
This visually stunning French film gives the Beast a backstory that I wasn’t overly fond of, but it’s worth seeing for other elements, including the complete embrace of a fairy tale world. I also liked the relationship between Belle and the rest of her family here.