Sunday, October 19, 2008

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast; animated musical romance, USA, 1991; D: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise, S: Paige O'Hara, Robby Benson, Jerry Orbach, Richard White, Angela Lansbury

In a small provincial town, there lives the beautiful, mildly eccentric girl named Belle who is unsuccessfully courted by the arrogant Gaston. One day, Belle's father disappears. She goes to look for him and finds him in a mysterious castle of a humanoid Beast that was casted under a spell by a witch. The Beast releases the father, but keeps Belle because only the love of a woman can break the spell and turn him back to a human, as well as his servants who were transformed into furniture. In order to nurse her sick father, Belle returns home. Gaston organizes an attack on the Beast, but dies. Belle admits that she loves the Beast and he transforms back into the prince again.

The makers of the Walt Disney studio insisted on their methods of applications of emotions and gestures on their characters in animation, and thus in 1991 their "Beauty and the Beast" was met with destiny all beautiful movies should experience: critical acclaim, commercial success and several awards. It is a fine film, yet not without a few banalities, sugary moments or a few overstretched subplots and musical scenes (for instance, when Gaston singes in the pub and breaks everything while fighting and shooting). Still, despite all of its standard Disney elements that do not bring anything new, it is hard to picture any other American animated film that has such shrillness, spirit and charm in the 90s as well as an excellent and strong heroine, Belle (wonderfully voiced by Paige O'Hara). In the opening act, she is all absorbed in her book, but has no difficulty to jump over a rope or dodge water falling from the roof. Thanks to the romantic calligraphy, even the most basic moments are impressive, from playing in the snow up to Belle reading "Romeo and Juliet" to the Beast and then wishes that he reads to her for once or when she does not look at him eating due to "politeness". Her anime physiognomy is so charming that when she smiles she almost overshadows Snow White: such euphony was lost by Disney a long time ago. Unfortunately, it is very good, but not great: the tender romantic build up between Belle and the Beast is very thin and takes up too little time, whereas too much time is wasted on inflicted 'off-topic' musical sequences' of the humanoid furniture jumping from the window into the pool and other mess that contaminates the emotional core.


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