BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (PG)
Fantasy/114 minutes/Opens today
The story: Belle's father plucks a rose from an enchanted castle for her. Because of that theft, he is forced to return to the fortress. Belle (Lea Seydoux) goes in his place instead and finds the scary Beast (Vincent Cassel) lurking in the shadows. Whenever she falls asleep, she slips into the past and learns of the tale behind the enchantment.
SINGAPORE - Think Beauty And The Beast is just some harmless fairy tale?
Some have seen it as an example of a problematic portrayal of domestic violence. The Beast is a savage male captor who demands submission from a powerless female, who eventually succumbs. And, once cast in that light, it is hard to see it otherwise.
At least in this version, Seydoux brings a fearlessness to the role that prevents Belle from completely being a victim. The actress was last seen in this year's award-winning Blue Is The Warmest Color.
Leaving the subtext aside, the movie has one major problem. The film is dubbed in English, but it is so clearly out of sync with the French mouth movements that it is distracting. It makes the film feel stilted and jerky in its rhythm.
What the dubbing cannot ruin, though, are the gorgeous visuals.
From the forbidding castle overgrown with thick roots and lush blooms, to Belle in a blood-red dress in a wintry white snowscape, the scenes are handsomely art-directed. The use of rich colours adds to the sense of fantasy, that this is a storybook come to glorious life.
The alabaster-skinned Seydoux is as pretty as a picture, a stark contrast to the leonine-faced Beast with his sharp claws. There is not very much for Cassel (Black Swan, 2010) to do, though, as the arrogant prince in the flashbacks.
The inclusion of enchanted dogs with oversized eyes and ears strikes an off-note, as though director Christophe Gans (Brotherhood Of The Wolf, 2001) was taking a page from the Disney book of cute.
It all culminates in a finale with some spectacular action and a, well, fairy-tale ending.
If only the beautiful visuals were not marred by the beastly dubbing.
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