Beauty And The Beast (Blu-ray Review)

Beauty-BeastThroughout fairy tale history, Beauty and the Beast is a story that is a well, with directors, writers, studios, theatres and such constantly going back to it.  Its been done on the stage, in film, on television and I’m sure in the comic book format as well.  My youth had a week to week series back in the day, a modernized version where a Ron Perlman Beast lived in the sewers woo’ing his beauty that was Linda Hamilton.  No matter how many, there are only two interpretations that have really stood the test of time and become the “go to” definitive versions.  One obviously being the Disney animated film.  The other, is the masterpiece of French cinema, Jean Cocteau’s 1946 film.   And next year, Disney is doing a live action rendition of their animated feature with Emma Watson and Dan Stevens.  Today, we are taking a look at 2014’s French take on the classic story from the director of Brotherhood of the Wolf and Silent Hill.

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Journeying across the perilous countryside, a struggling merchant stumbles upon the magical domain of the fearsome Beast, who sentences him to death for stealing a rose. The merchant’s youngest daughter Belle bravely sacrifices herself and takes her father’s place. Once at the Beast’s castle, it is not death that awaits Belle, but a strange and fantastical life unlike anything she has ever experienced…and the discovery that her mysterious host is living under a terrible enchantment. As Belle valiantly attempts to release the Beast from his curse, the two discover that a most unlikely bond blooms between them…true love.

Christophe Gans’ Beauty and the Beast is first and foremost a visual splendor.  The film has some breathtaking shots and cultivates its own world and place by having some really luscious visuals.  There are settings that are straight out of the most beautiful vision of a fantasy film you could imagine in your head.  Lots of this film looks iconic just in execution.  The house on the outskirts, the Beast’s castle, the woods, the giants, everything is distinct and has a look.  This film features many portions that I would love to have as a painting or something, especially a moment where Belle falls under some ice.  For that bit alone, this movie is pretty much recommendable and worth seeing just for pure visuals.

Gans’ story takes its own liberties and twists its own rendition of the old fairytale.  Its never harmful to it, or offensive to anything that came before.  In fact, it makes the film a bit more interesting and unpredictable in this regard as things could wind up slightly different.  The Beast’s backstory has as twist element that I don’t think is fully realized or hinted at til it has to be, but it still works and is a different take on why he is the way he is.  Where this film ultimately falls short, is crafting a believable love story for Belle and the Beast.  It just seems they weren’t given enough time or didn’t have enough conversation for her to really be completely into him and open up.  At their last juncture before the finale, it feels as if the door was just slightly starting to open.  The resolution looks good and we know what it is, it just isn’t really earned.

Belle is this time played by Lea Seydoux, who is pretty terrific in the role.  She sort of makes something out of nothing here.  And that’s no fault of the script, its just going by typical standards of the character.  She’s pretty thick skinned and always willing to help.  Seydoux, I think, breaks a traditional mold of what we feel we see in a actress to play Belle.  Vincent Cassel is in this, because of course.  I found it interesting that the age gap between he and Seydoux is damn near identical to that of her and Craig in SPECTRE (the following year).  Cassel is a great actor, but I feel they should have found someone closer in age for her.  Both are talented, but I sort of don’t feel a complete chemistry here between them.  I’m not sure I even found it with him and his wife in the flashback sequences.  I’m not saying this is awful, but the chemistry between the two is soft.

The film isn’t without some big fantasy action.  There are some creatures and the like that face off against baddies from another town over in a later sequence in the film. What I like about what Gans’ brings here is an honesty to the battle.  No, its not ruthless and over-gored, but its not safe, friendly and silly either.  Guys get smashed and flung and die, they are just scared away.  You’ll have to see for yourself, but its a rather well put together sequence that feels pretty large and brings a sense of intensity around a group of characters you could care less of what their fates may be.

2014’s edition Beauty and the Beast will probably come and go, but it isn’t without merit.  It was a huge hit in France and is just now getting to the US.  The film is visually very interesting and follows a unique twist on the story that is quite different and good.  Performances stack up well even if the chemistry isn’t completely there.  I’d definitely recommend it if you’re a fan of the story or a person who’s strengths in their love of cinema will bend a lot for terrific cinematography.

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  Beauty and the Beast carries a very lovely looking transfer in its US Blu-ray debut.  It appears very full, rich and luscious with gorgeous details.  The fur of the beast, the fabric of Belle’s gowns, cobblestone on the streets, you name it…it carries some very good detail.  The image also has a sort of naturally slightly soft, fairytale- like look to it.  Don’t take that the wrong way though, its still pretty crisp and sharp.

Depth:  Dimensional work is pretty strong here. I’m not sure if it was a 3-D film in France or not, but it sure does offer itself to the gimmick.  Spacing between character/object and background is quite good with a nice pushed-back look to it.  Movements are very clean and cinematic in nature.

Black Levels:  Blacks are deep and rich, holding strong and carrying a lot of texture, character and shading.  No crushing was witnessed, and no detail was really masked at all.

Color Reproduction:  Colors do look quite beautiful, many a times coming in the form of  Belle’s gowns.  Also, reds, like on the roses pop and look very rich on your display.  Greens, whites and yellow all had good pull while an overall blue filter look to a many parts of the film holds strong.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones carry a slightly cool look throughout the duration of the film.  Details like stubble, scarring, make-up, scuffs and whatnot all come through with great appeal in medium and close-up shots.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

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Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA, French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: Both 5.1 tracks carry a nice, fun, involving track that is well thought out, layered and delivered.  Effects and ambiance carry a distinct, well rounded sound that is carefully displayed throughout every channel.  The film has a nice healthy balance between the sounds, music/score and vocals.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Giants stomped, trees parting, thumping of landing or punching, large doors closing and much more can be found rumbling in your subwoofer.

Surround Sound Presentation:  This track is well thought out and has a good presence worked through its five channels.  Movements are accurately depicted and the mix has wonderfully thought out its rear channels, giving them a unique and honest voice as well.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is crisp, clear and fully discernible and dictated throughout the film.

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Beauty and the Beast is a 2-Disc set that comes with the DVD edition and a Digital Copy of the film.

Interview With Director Christophe Gans (HD, 19:32) – He sits and answers a variety of questions regarding interpretation, Lea Seydoux, fairy tales and shooting in a studio with a lot of green screen.  My favorite portion was early on when he discussed trying to make or a appreciate a film in a way that it means something different later down the road in life.

Interview With Vincent Cassel (HD, 14:53) – After telling his background on the original fairytale and Jean Cocteau’s film he gets into working with Lea Seydoux, embracing modern technology, working under a mask and the resurgence of fairy tale films at the box office.

Interview With Lea Seydoux (HD, 9:02) – She talks her fandom of the Cocteau and Disney films and goes on to celebrate working with Vincent Cassel, the challenges of technology, her gowns in the film and the enjoyment of being in a cross-generational movie.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:54) 

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Christophe Gans’ vision of Beauty and the Beast is one that is pops on the eyes and isn’t afraid to be creative.  Its a solid bit of original fun on an old classic.  This Blu-ray comes from Shout! Factory with a very fine presentation in both video and audio.  The extras give you a bit of static interviews with the director and actors, but they give colorful enough answers for it to be worthwhile.  Something tells me over the years that this version is gonna have a bit of a fan base in years to come, so you might just want to snag a copy now.

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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