Monday, March 20, 2017

Easy to Remember Harder to Move on

Disney movies and Steven Spielberg movies are the closest we have to the golden era of Hollywood studio filmmaking.

Beauty and the Beast (2017, Bill Condon) is a Technicolor Baroque musical romance fairy tale. Half of our instincts tell us that BELLE (Emma Watson) and the BEAST will obviously inevitably fall in love with each other while the other half wonders how on earth the movie will convincingly depict it.

The overarching plot device in the form of inciting incident is that Beast must fall in love with someone whom in return loves him back to break the curse, which would transform him back into a prince. Falling in love is the easy part, being loved back proves more difficult. So, Beauty and the Beast is essentially about one man's desperation to find a woman. I'm going to single myself out and say that for me that's basically all life is about so I have a special affinity for this romantic trash.

Beast isn't really a monster he's just sexually frustrated. His Swedish headache is depicted as the ice storm that perennially engulfs his castle. What a charmingly odd narrative. After Beast has imprisoned Belle to a life sentence in his castle, he invites her to dinner. And the "Be Our Guest" number in the age of CG visual effects takes on the decadent likeness of a Vegas nightclub act. Which brings me to a point about the plot.

The premise sets up Belle's acceptance of Beast as her lover as crucial. We also need to fall in love with Beast to buy all this. And while it may seem that the underlying message is to see the inner beauty of someone, looking beyond their outward physical appearance and loving them for who they really are, I noticed some potential discrepancies.

Maybe this is just me but I cannot look past the fact that in Belle's own words, she's seen all of the other men in the village and has decided that she's not attracted to any of them. And as GASTON points out, they are both peasants. Yet if we are to believe that Belle is destined to fall in love with Beast because he's a good person, which I had always believed, this ignores Beast's material wealth. Say Belle is the everygirl, does every girl need a prince with his own huge castle with full staff of servants, lavish furnishings, harpsichord, and Baroque gold filigree on everything?

Also we don't know shit about Belle except that she's a bookworm. And coincidentally Beast is an avid reader who soon picks up on Belle's hobby and carelessly donates his entire library to her as if it has no value whatsoever. I'm just trying to see this from the girl's perspective. Belle has to be sizing Beast up as a cruel monster initially. But what begins to change this impression other than his material wealth? Oh yeah he also gives her a magic mirror that can take her to any other world she wants; and Belle uses this Philip K. Dick invention to return to her childhood home where she discovers that her mom was dying of the plague and her dad's true motives for leaving her behind were so that Belle wouldn't catch the plague too.

Is the message here that giving a girl a huge mansion, furniture, the finest meals, clothes, and metaphysically impossible gadgets that explain the mysteries of her parents most deepest secret motives and how they really all loved her and each other the way to get a girl to fall in love with you? Maybe I missed something.

Emotions = Fantasy

Beauty and the Beast works for me because I fell in love with Emma Watson as Belle and bought into the fantasy that there is one girl for one guy that if they met would be the perfect romantic match and live happily ever after. And Beauty and the Beast in Disney's hands as a modern live action musical felt like a return to the pre-Depression golden Hollywood era of movies. There are funny scenes and there are genuinely scary scenes, like when Gaston binds Belle's dad to a tree to be eaten alive by wolves.

Intellect = History

Although after the dust has settled I see that there is a scene in The Elephant Man (1980, David Lynch) that does more to illuminate the gulf between male physical appearance as impediment to attracting the company of women romantically than the entirety of Beauty and the Beast. When JOHN MERRICK (John Hurt) adopts the posture, behavior, and mannerisms of a gentleman in his small hotel room, rehearsing how he will perform in an upcoming social setting, watching himself in the mirror. He's alone. He sees himself as dignified and befitting the company of any woman. His love of himself is authentic and it comes from within. It's about confidence, not showering a lady with material objects. And even alone without a woman, John Merrick remains one of the most beautiful depictions of masculine ego portrayed on celluloid. Beast is just a rich jerk who meets a golddigger at the right time and the right place.


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