More Beauty and the Beast

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.

Advertisements

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast with Gifs

Gifs, gifs, gifs, glorious gifs! Yes, it has been almost a week since the teaser trailer for Disney’s 2017 live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast dropped and fans everywhere have been exploding with giddiness ever since.

I could watch the trailer again, and I have. Then the ever-reliable giphy.com provided some lovely gifs from the teaser trailer. They help fill the time while waiting for this movie to hit theaters (2017 is still a bit far-off, after all) and provide some extra fodder for an extended analysis of that which we see before us. Let’s begin. In the order of appearance:

castle 1

“And all who lived there.” Yes, Disney, we know it’s you, nice work there tying in the usual opening castle and logo scene with the story. I still can’t stop remembering Hogwarts in the winter time when I see this. But it’s nice to already get a view of the whole castle, or at least its front facade. That’s a lot of towers.

castle

A circular room with what looks like a domed ceiling, sunlight shining through the windows and illuminating the most likely crystal parts of numerous festive chandeliers waiting for their moment. Gold, white, grey, maybe light-blue dominate what we can see of the interior here and a sleeping piano stands alone. Could this be the ballroom, and if yes, could the iconic dance scene accompanied by Mrs. Potts singing Tale as Old as Time take place here? Dimensions are a bit hard to tell, but judging by the number of chandeliers in this take alone and the several windows, the room must stretch on beyond what we can see. Of course, maybe it’s just the morning room or something like this, where the prince used to play piano regularly in his happier, selfish days, but then he stopped, and it’s been gathering dust ever since, until Belle came along, and as they start to thaw towards each other, they sit down at the piano together and he plays her a long-forgotten tune… My imagination is clearly more than fired up.

castle2

The entrance? The front hall? What Belle sees first as she sets foot inside this forsaken castle? Brown leaves flutter in through the open double doors. Swirling patterns on the powder-blue or white floor echo the curving gold and white molding on the walls. Brown and cobwebs continue on the upper level, though it’s obvious the castle is beautiful (with a good scrub or just some magic once everything is alright again this will actually be visible) and the interiors, while glamourous and speaking of nobility, also have something understated about them, stopping short of being gaudy or ostentatious.

castle3

More gold, and more candles, so many candles! This breathes a bit of Phantom of the Opera and the Phantom’s underground lair, Music of the Night etc. Luckily the castle is actually on the surface of the Earth and Belle is not descending in to the dwellings of an obsessive and murderous dude with a traumatic past and complicated history. She is entering the dwellings of an angry and lonely dude with an as yet unknown past and complicated history. She just doesn’t know what awaits her at all. But there are lots of scrolls here, and a desk, so maybe the people living here used to be interested in things and active in their pursuits.

portrait

A hint about the maybe once happy family who used to live here. We see more gold and curved lines, though the walls and interior around the portrait seem to have absorbed the oft present darkness and stillness that now inhabit the castle. Unlike the room above, a stronger sense of heaviness is apparent, accentuated by the weighty and slightly tattered curtain on the right of the painting. However, candles still burn in their high gold holders, giving sufficient light, because this corner is clearly visited regularly and provokes repeated strong feelings, judging by that make-you-jump growling slash across the canvas. Of course the green-blue eyes and blonde hair of the boy in the center of the portrait are immediately reminiscent of both the animanted prince’s and Dan Stevens’ own luminous peepers…

rose

“It’s a girl!” – “I know it’s a girl!”- “She’s the one, the one we have been waiting for! She has come to break the spell!” What a gorgeous shot. The rose is, of course, perfect, the so far only thing among the preceding interior views that looks truly alive and well. We can tell that Belle is wearing blue, and a ring on the pinky of her right hand – wondering if there’s any story behind that one. Well done, Disney, making fans wriggle some more. Emma Watson bends down and tentatively reaches out a hand towards the rose. Her lovely visage becomes focused, while the rose blurs, but successfully blocks almost half her face as she is level with it. The perfect blend of the known and the mysterious.

But at least we are already invited. My RSVP is ticked off the list.

guest

 

Beauty and the Beast Teaser Trailer

“For who could ever learn to love a beast?”

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.

To be released in spring 2017…

 

 

 

 

Alice, Newt, Sing Street, Romeo and Juliet

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?

 

Sing Street

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…

‘Tis going to be a good season!

 

 

The Jungle Book

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.

mowgli1The 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.

mowgli2The 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.

mowgli3Idris 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.

mowgli4I 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…”

Watching Titanic as an adult

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.

 

Maleficent – Not Just Another Villain Movie

This beautiful discovery turned out to be a movie I can watch again and again, so here are a few things that I especially like about it.

While heavily based on the character of Maleficent from Disney’s animated classic Sleeping Beauty (especially in terms of looks and diction), who is an evil, jealous figure through and through, one doesn’t permanently remember that fact. Instead, combined with respectful, measured contributions from the original, a fully-fledged, individual character emerges in Angelina Jolie’s portrayal. This is not just another backstory of a famous villain supported by the “she’s actually good” plotline. She branches off from the animated Maleficent without seeming like a spin-off.

maleficent 1

We feel her pain, oh, we feel it, and we cry with her! We’re horrified. Just give the fairy her damn wings back! For all the trauma, it’s one of the best scenes in the movie, showing the bond of flight to Maleficent’s identity.

maleficent2

Despite this horrible attack, she did not let herself be crippled by it. Instead, she became fetchingly badass (though you are secretly hoping she won’t get murderous urges, since this is a new movie, and there must be some other point to this story then the character giving in to the dark side). She also somehow easily got really cool make-up and a whole outfit made out of black leather – mais oui. And the raven, don’t forget the raven.

maleficent3

She still retained her sense of humour, playing tricks on the bumbling fairies looking after Aurora, instead of frying them all.

maleficent4

And finally, what I like most – she stands up and soars (impressively shattering some glass in the process).

maleficent5