The French movie directed by Christophe Gans and released in 2014, that is. I remember the Disney animated classic practically by heart, and yes, of course I will watch it again, and again, and again. This version grabbed my curiousity and it coincided nicely with the reignited enthuasiasm for all things Beauty and all things Beast after the teaser trailer for the upcoming Disney live-action film came out.
So, first thing’s first, it’s very different from the Disney interpretation, as it should be. While the story is scary enough, touching on plenty of serious topics if you stop to think about it, this movie was still darker and sometimes gloomier than I expected. There are, of course, familiar sights – an overgrown, dank, forgotten castle. A sense of impending menace before we really know who or what lives there, which transfers from Belle.
It was much harder to relate to the Beast in this adaptation, and however hard I tried to tell myself he was “real”, with “flaws”, the character had some very unattractive qualities indeed, not to mention a very serious sin on his hands. I was constantly scared he would tear Belle to bits, even when she started falling for him. And that’s the crucial point of dissatisfaction with the movie for me, unfortunately. How Belle starts to open her heart to the Beast skipped my understanding. One moment she is resisting his attentions, even while steadfastly accepting her fate, the next all she wants is to remain with him forever, it is her “only wish”. OK, so he did redeem himself by saving her life, and he doesn’t hide who he is from her. Love is all-powerful etc etc.
Nope, still can’t convince myself.
But the cinematography and costumes are stunning. While Belle’s dresses are somewhat too opulent for all that running around she does, the design is amazing.
There are still many ways to tell stories, including well-known and long-established fairy tales, which is heartening and inspiring. The enduring fascination with this particular genre seems to be showing itself in a myriad of new interpretations in entertainment and culture, and I am constantly watching to see what else will come, how characters we have known forever will find their way in to creative projects.
As far as I’m concerned, the feverish anticipation phase of waiting for Disney’s further upcoming live-action remake of well-known and well-watched animated classic Beauty and the Beast has officially begun. And it began for me the moment I read yesterday that the teaser trailer for the movie was out. A glimpse it is, but oh, what a glimpse!
As far as teaser trailers go, it is gorgeous. A hint of stunning, sweeping cinematography, and doesn’t that castle in the beginning, with the snow swirling around it, remind you just a bit of scenes with Hogwarts in the winter time in the Harry Potter films? I don’t mind at all. And then the sounds from the piano keys one knows so well from the opening score of the soundtrack begin to weave around the images, and my heart almost skips a beat. Such a illuminating blend of the sure-to-come drama, the sadness in the sleeping grandeur of the castle and Belle’s mix of curiousity and caution as she steps inside.
Nothing will ever be the same!
To say I’m looking forward to this is an understatement. To say I’m wildly curious myself doesn’t begin to describe my feelings. One thing is for sure – Emma Watson is one of her generation’s best actresses to portray a young woman with “her nose stuck in a book”, and she is certainly well on her way to creating memorable film portrayals of iconic characters. She can also hold her own with acting based on material that has won millions of fans the world over and continues to endure through time. Playing Hermione, and now Belle, is more than enough pressure. But Hermione is firmly established as a character in her own right, and I hope the same will be true for this new Belle. Emma Watson’s own attentiveness and intelligence will hopefully contribute in the best way to put her own stamp on Belle, yet keep the essential qualities which make Belle who she is.
Remembering Dan Steven’s piercing blue eyes and wonderful diction in Downton Abbey, I also have high hopes for the Beast, aka Prince Adam.
Not only did I really enjoy watching The Jungle Book, but the trip to the movie theater rewarded me with several interesting film trailers that provoked feelings of either curiousity or excitement.
Alice Through the Looking Glass
As with The Jungle Book, more memories surface of literary classics from childhood not read again for a very long time. This one looks to be a glorious, bright, basically psychedelic Tim Burton/ Disney extravaganza, hopefully promising, especially with the acting talents of Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, not to mention Alan Rickman’s familiar baritone. I’m ready for another parallel universe with creatures who are either fantastic or crazy or both. Most everyone’s mad there, anyway.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
To be honest, I had almost forgotten about this one. I know, how could I, as a self-proclaimed devoted fan of all things Harry Potter? But my own Potterverse was very much contained within the seven books and seven movies, and it took a lot of emotional processing to sort out my feelings once both installments were finished. So maybe for reasons relating to fan self-protection I have adapted this cautious stance, instead of jumping and screaming. However, everyone in the audience, myself included, sat up straighter as soon as whispers of “Lumos, Maxima!” floated towards us. Who am I to refuse an invitation to return to the wizarding world?
This was completely unfamiliar to me, but it looks like it might be pleasantly nostalgic, funny and the accents are of course irrisistable to someone who leans towards the American accent herself. Plus, it’s spring, a movie about (what looks to be) teenage outcasts forming a band and ultimately arriving at all sorts of profound discoveries might be just the thing. And while I’m not a Game of Thrones fan, that’s Littlefinger sitting calm as you please at some kitchen table in 1980s Dublin! I’ll have to watch this just to make sure everyone is OK in the end.
Romeo and Juliet
And finally, this delectable, hauntingly beautiful tidbit. True, it’s a theater production, but if I’m lucky I will catch a live broadcast at my local cinema, thanks to a fantastic project they have going on with some of England’s most prestigious theaters. By coincidence I had been nostalgically checking out clips from the gorgeous 1968 adaptation directed by Franco Zeffirelli, and now this! Lilly James and Richard Madden are certainly a wonderful pairing, and I love how the pace changes from slow to charged in a heartbeat when he twirls her around. How much one wants to believe they are not doomed, even if one knows they are…
Mowgli is running through a spectacular, breath-taking jungle at clearly the fastest speed he can muster, but we get the sense that he can’t quite match whatever it is that is making him run in the first place. Goosebumps start to prickle along my arms as I wonder whether he is trying to catch up with one of his animal friends… or already being pursued by Shere Khan? Will he make it?
Another installment in Disney’s live-action remakes of their well-known animated classics we grew up with (does this mean we will have to wait several more years for the Frozen version?), The Jungle Book is stunning, absorbing and thrilling from start to finish. It’s also occasionally jump-in-your-seat scary.
The amount of work concerning the CGI alone in this film blows my mind. And what good work it is. The jungle is an endless expanse of enormous trees, massive amounts of foliage, green dappled with brown, vines, height, sudden roaring waterfalls and ravines. It seems to be the only world in existence, an ever-changing one, as nature does lay claim to it whenever it chooses. A stroll in a field of tall yellow grass with Bagheera may turn in to a hair-raising fight for survival in a second. You might discover the tree you chose to climb is dead when you are already halfway across its branches. And in the same day you might stretch out at the base of another tree, snacking on some dewy red fruit dangling right in front of your eyes. Hearing about the Man Village and catching a glimpse of it is almost a surprise after moving with Mowgli through this jungle universe.
From Bagheera’s fluid movements that always make you wonder just a bit whether he will pounce on Mowgli after all (even if you know he won’t), to Baloo’s heavy, lumbering walk, to King Louie’s frightening speed despite his enormous size, the animal characters in the film successfully blend the purely animalistic with the fictional elements that make them relatable to the human in us (with all their qualities). We understand and appreciate why they behave the way they do towards Mowgli, secretly relieved that some of them didn’t eat him when they first met the little mancub, but we also never quite forget they are jungle animals, some of them predators, and that’s the way it should be.
The film’s thoughtful screenplay and characters successfully extend beyond the excitement of a boy living alone among animals. While Mowgli’s fate and interaction with the jungle and its inhabitants is also a factor that propels our interest, as when we read the book, eternally appealing themes are explored, sometimes touched upon by a short, but well-written and well-acted scene. “You are mine to me, no matter where you go, no matter what they call you,” says Raksha, his adoptive wolf mother, to Mowgli. “I raised him,” Bagheera says to Baloo, acknowledging Mowgli’s special qualities, which the animals around him cannot always understand, but don’t extinguish completely and finally come to accept. Families coming together in different ways, not just through blood ties, friendship, self-discovery, fear and facing life – The Jungle Book has it all, simply well done.
The natural thing about films with animated or CG characters is that you become additionally aware of voices, and The Jungle Book boasts some very distinct ones among its cast. Christopher Walken brings a menace to King Louie that only he can bring, along with the wackiness, especially since not only his voice animates the ape king, but Walken’s eyes look out of the ape’s face (cue Sleepy Hollow memories). Scarlett Johansson’s extra throaty delivery makes Kaa border between alluring and frightening – make sure you stay for the end credits for her rendition of Trust in Me.
Idris Elba voicing Shere Khan is yet another beast (pun!). Shere Khan, the moment he appears, is immediately terrifying. His voice is not just deep, it’s always verging on the edge of a bone-chilling growl and it leaves you in no doubt that the tiger is ready to show his fangs and use them without hesitation. Shere Khan is less about the tiger, the tiger is merely the package in this case, containing a bullying, bloodthirsty, merciless brute who can kill at a moment’s notice and, while more than capable of provoking immediate fear, is ultimately driven by it himself, which feeds his insane desire to eliminate that one thing which constrains his overinflated ego.
I left the main character for last, the one that all the animals, from mother, to enemy, to friends, had so much to say about. Mowgli has thus far fortunately been unscarred by the tragedy in his very early childhood which left him an orphan, and despite his occasional struggles with adapting to life in the wolf pack, he has remained open, curious, emphatic and brave. His resourcefulness and inventive streak make the self-discovery part of his journey through the jungle all the more interesting. He is also very resilient, making the audience breathe out in relief when he doesn’t break his back or loose a limb to Shere Khan.
I’ve left out comparisons to both the book and the animated Disney film on purpose, as this movie, while respectfully nodding to its inspiration and even elegantly incorporating the well-known songs without turning in to a musical, is more than capable of standing on its own. “Trust in me, oh, just in me…”
Much has been said about this. I know I’m not the only one, but I must have my say. After all, watching Titanic was quite a memorable part of our just-out-of-childhood-early teens years. How could I not want to express myself.
All I remember from watching the movie (on VHS!) is crying at the end and the keyrings with Leonardo DiCaprio that my female classmates were trading afterwards. The frenzy surrounding Leo and the adoration of said classmates were the main topics of that school year. Girls were scratching out “Leonardo” with hearts next to the name on the surface of school desks instead of paying attention in math class and wearing Titanic movie poster T-shirts.
My family and I were slightly overwhelmed by beach towels also bearing the likeness of Rose and Jack flapping from every souvenir shop on our trip to Paris that summer. Titanic the movie was literally everywhere and on what felt like everything. Not to mention, My Heart Will Go On was THE slow dance song at every pre-teen school dance in the vicinity back home. Swaying to lyrics on the weighty subject of a heart beating forever for love, while the slightly sweaty hands of a pre-pubescent boy were resting on your waist? Ah, those were the days.
Sitting down to watch the movie today, I find anticipation running somewhat high. My eyes well up as soon as the first hints of what we know to be the theme song accompany the opening shots of the Titanic wreck. Flute music always makes me teary and as an adult I find my mind grasping the tragedy of the real events behind the film more strongly then when I was a child. Of course, the love story makes for a very approachable movie, especially since more than enough has been documented about the search and ultimate discovery of the Titanic by Robert Ballard in 1985. In fact, I find myself not paying much attention to the technical terms during the “present day” part of the film, as the underwater equipment roams over the forever sleeping shipwreck.
The shipwreck itself draws you in, with the background knowledge and the expectation of the love story yet to unfold mixing together to make one extremely sentimental. Details that didn’t stick in memory before speak differently now, like the chandelier that gives off a slight hint of having once sparkled, or the empty boot lying on the floor – so sad.
Despite remembering the movie fairly well, the joyous music in the beginning still produces the (eerie) feeling that nothing could go wrong. Yet at the same time every line Jack and Rose utter (especially Jack) seems to be double-edged with an ominous meaning. “Somebody’s life’s about to change”, Jack proclaimes before winning tickets to Titanic in a game. His description of just how cold the ocean water feels is practically clairvoyant.
What stands out in the movie is youth straining to live, which is palpable both in the two main characters and the actors themselves. Jack’s first excitement at spotting dolphins in the water, Rose’s incredible 17-year-old sadness, loneliness and despair. “I mean it, I’ll let go!” – “No, you won’t.” The scene where Jack first sees Rose and she looks over to him is simply perfect.
It’s a pile of glorious nostalgia, by now so many classic scenes and quotable quotes. Despite knowing what happened, you still want to believe they might be able to do something. Maybe that’s just the romantic in me talking.
Oh, and while I shed plenty of tears during the scene long after the Titanic sank, it was the sequence at the very end that totally got me. Was it supposed to be cheesy? Somehow it wasn’t.
Just one more thing, though. And the Internet has long since (not always nicely) caught up to this. Ahem: THERE WAS TOTALLY ENOUGH ROOM FOR BOTH OF THEM ON THAT BOARD.
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