LA BELLE ET LA BETE (THE BEAUTY AND THE BEAST)
DIRECTOR: Christophe Gans
CAST: Vincent Cassel, Lea Seydoux
A ROSE by any other name may smell as sweet, but there is little to recommend this fairytale told countless times before, and now in French and badly dubbed English. And that’s not for lack of one red rose or many.
Scriptwriters Sandra Vo-Anh and Gans try it by introducing three brothers apart from the two demanding sisters for Belle, an alarming number of dogs, and by giving a backstory that Belle sees in her dreams that leaves no one in doubt that the hairy creature on display is a former caddish prince. So, not only are you not sure whether Belle is falling in love with the beast or the prince he was, the prince he was isn’t a nice enough human to fall in love with.
While one reason could be to try make understand why the prince brought that fate upon himself, Cassel isn’t the kind of actor to reflect an “inner goodness”. He relishes in his role of a cruel game hunter who ignores his wife, and may draw more sympathetic titters when hidden behind the guise of the beast.
The first few visions of that beast are truly startling and Gans does well in imagining a castle and kingdom thrown into disrepair and loneliness.
However, his Belle again doesn’t have the spark to light up that place, despite being played by the reliable Seydoux.
Perhaps in one last ditch attempt to lift the listlessness, the film has a fight sequence with giants. But by then it’s clear that La Belle Et La Bette is more sold ironically on appearance than the central and the rather overt message of this fairytale: that beauty lies within.