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Beauty and the Beast: Belle’s Magical World (a J!-ENT Children’s DVD Review)

November 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The third midquel in Disney’s animated “Beauty and the Beast” trilogy, “Belle’s Magical World” features four different stories that utilizes many of the original film’s characters.  Overall, a fun and entertaining family film that children will definitely enjoy!

Images courtesy of © Disney. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Belle’s Magical World

FILM RELEASE DATE: 1998

DURATION: 92 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 1:33:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 Dolby Digital English, French and Spanish, English Subtitles for Deaf and Hearing Impaired, Frenchand Spanish Subtitles

COMPANY: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: G (All Ages Admitted)

RELEASE DATE: November 22, 2011

Directed by Cullen Blaine, Dale Case, Daniel de la Vega, Barbara Dourmashkin, Bob Kline, Burt Medall, Mitch Rochon

Written by Alice Brown (Fifi’s Folly), Richard Cray (The Perfect Word), Carter Crocker (Broken Wing, Fifi’s Folly), Sheree Guitar (Broken Wing), Chip Hand (Broken Wing)

Produced by Bob Kline

Associate Produced by David W. King

Unit Producer: Colin Baker

Music by Harvey Cohen

Featuring the voices of:

Robby Benson as Beast

Paige O’Hara as Belle

Jerry Orbach as Lumiere

David Ogden Stiers as Cogsworth

Gregory Grudt as Chip

Kimmy Robertson as Fifi

Anne Rogers as Mrs. Potts

Frank Welker as Sultan

Jo Anne Worley as Wardrobe

From the “tale as old as time” comes a new Special Edition inspired by the original classic, Beauty and the Beast.

Join Belle, Disney’s spirited princess, Beast, Cogsworth, Lumiere, plus some charming new friends, as they discover how teamwork and friendship can turn a once-gloomy castle into a dazzling palace fit for a princess! Adorned with delightful bonus features, your favorite characters and enchanting songs, this fun-filled, instant classic proves that true beauty shines from within!

In 1991, Walt Disney Animation Studios debuted their 30th film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics line and the film would achieve commercial success as it earned over $377 million worldwide and was the first animated film to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, and the film also received six Academy Award nominations, winning an award for “Best Original Score” and “Best Original Song”.

And to capitalize on the success of the film, Disney would release the two midquel’s of the “Beauty and the Beast” trilogy: “Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas” (1997) and “Belle’s Magical World” (1998).  The films would take place when Belle was being held inside the castle of the beast and both are trying to get to know each other.

For the third film “Belle’s Magical World”, all voice actors for the original animated film returned with the exception of the role of Mrs. Potts (previously voiced by Angela Lansbury) which was voiced by Anne Rogers.

When the video was first released in 1998, the film consisted of three segments but in 2003, for the “special edition” DVD release, it was changed to feature a fourth segment titled “Mrs. Pott’s Party”.  With the release of “Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas” on Blu-ray, Disney has also decided to re-release the third film in the trilogy on DVD.

“Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas” is a film about misunderstandings and is broken up into several stories that involve misunderstandings among the characters.

To first preface of what the original film was about.  An enchantress who is disguised as an old beggar asks the prince for shelter for the night in exchange for a rose.  The prince refuses and the enchantress punishes him by turning him into an ugly Beast.  She gives the Beast a rose and tells him that it will bloom until his 21st birthday.  He must love and be loved in return before the rose petal’s have fallen off, or else he will be a Beast forever.

While the third film takes place during the time that Belle was kept in the castle, the Beast’s servants are worried that they need to do all they can to make Belle fall in love with the prince before the petals have fallen off.  But the problem is that the Beast and Belle keep having arguments.

The first segment “The Perfect World” revolves around the Beast and Belle eating together.  But with the Beast getting warm and sweaty, he demands the windows to be opened which makes his servants cold.  As Belle tends to defend everyone in the castle because of their fear of the Beast, she gets into a heated argument and insults the Beast.

When Webster (a dictionary) translates continuously the insults that Belle has called the Beast, the Beast in anger, swats him and the relationship between Belle and Beast start to sour.  But when Crane (papers) and LePume (a quill) takes things into their own hands in order to bring Belle and the Beast together, they don’t realize what problems they have caused when the Beast finds out the truth.

For the second story, “Fifi’s Folly”, it’s the anniversary of Lumiere’s first date with Fifi  and the nervou Lumiere goes to Belle for advice on how to celebrate the special occasion.  But Fifi mistakes Lumiere’s time with Belle as being romantic and becomes very jealous, to the point that she wants to get revenge for what she thinks is a betrayal of their relationship.

For the third story “Mrs. Pott’s Party”, Mrs. Potts is depressed about the weather, so Belle and friends want to have a surprise party for her.   But when Lumiere and Cogsworth become a rival in composing music for the party, they begin to sabotage each other’s work.

In the final story “The Broken Wing”, Belle and Beast have lunch but when an injured bird flies into the castle, her attention is diverted towards the bird and it angers the Beast.  The Beast puts the bird in a cage and forces him to sing.  Belle wants him to release the bird immediately but the Beast will not.  Will this latest argument prevent the two from ever falling for each other?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

With the release of “Beauty and the Beast: Enchanted Christmas” and “Beauty and the Beast: Belle’s Magical World”, I was surprised to find out that the latter would not be released on Blu-ray but only on DVD.  For the most part, this is the same DVD release from 2003 but with more special features.

“Belle’s Magical World” is presented in 1:33:1 aspect ratio and 5.1 Dolby Digital English, Spanish and French.  Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

It’s important to note, unlike “Enchanted Christmas”, there is no CG animation. If anything, compared to the last “Beauty and the Beast” midquel, the budget for this production was obviously lower.

While I don’t personally own the original 2003 DVD to do any comparisons, I will say that the picture quality seems slightly muted and does have white specks and scratches.  The quality is quite similar to an ’80s or ’90s animated film in terms of presentation, as the film does look its age.  Colors are not as vibrant and would lead me to believe why this film did not receive the HD treatment, unlike “Enchanted Christmas” which was released on Blu-ray.

But the film does feature beautifully painted backgrounds and there are not as many frames (as some characters stay still in the background) but it’s not terrible.  I know many people back then who were not as thrilled that Disney didn’t give the film the same production quality as the original film and even the last direc-to-video film “Enchanted Christmas”.  Granted, the first film is a big budget film that cost $25 million to make, “Enchanted Christmas” was created by Walt Disney animation’s Vancouver studio which was later shutdown due to budget cuts.  So, this third film, a direct-to-video midquel obviously had a lower budget as it cost less to produce and doesn’t feature the CG animation that the first two films had.

But I doubt that the children will complain, mostly the adults who try to compare this direct-to-video film with the high budget original film or the last midquel but considering this is a lower budget production, I understand why older “Beauty and the Beast” fans were disappointed with this film back in 1998.  But overall, DVD is good and what I would expect from a direct-to-video film and because it is more geared towards the children, I’m sure they will have fun watching it.

As for audio, “Belle’s Magical World” is not a film that has an immersive 5.1 soundtrack but for the most part, its dialogue and music are crystal clear.  I heard no hiss or crackle during my viewing of the film.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Beauty and the Beast: Belle’s Magical World” comes with the following special feature:

  • Disney’s Sing Me A Story with Belle – (22:58) A hybrid live/animated short feature featuring a non-animated Belle with cuts of animated and puppet-based characters.  Belle encourages children to look beyond outer appearances to discover what is important.
  • Belle’s Delightful Dinner Game – Help Belle plan a special dinner for the Beast.
  • Disney’s Song Selection – Select you favorite song from the film to sing-along-to.
  • Enchanted Environment – (3:00) featuring an animated 3D environment with music.

EXTRAS:

“Beauty and the Beast: Belle’s Magical World” comes with a slipcover case.

“Beauty and the Beast: Belle’s Magical World” for me was a film that seemed as if it was targeted primarily for a younger demographic.

As the original film definitely attracted people of all ages, because of the way the film was broken up to segments, I do agree with earlier reviewers who felt that the film seemed like a cartoon that you would see on television.  But I also feel that the film was made for the children.  Not focused more on the relationship of the Beast and Belle but to showcase all the characters and show a storyline about miscommunication and relationships.  After a heated argument or debate, its important to work things out.

For me, this was a direct-to-video film and I didn’t have any high expectations for video quality or even for its storyline.   Granted, Disney has changed its strategy when it comes to their approach for direct-to-video releases (as seen with their “Tinkerbell” films) but back in the ’90s, the midquels were literally videos created to bank on the enormous popularity of the original animated film.

While I don’t think the special features would make me recommend a re-purchase of the DVD, for those who own the original, I would only recommend this if you loved the music and want the sing-a-long portion of it.  Otherwise, you’re good with the original DVD that you have.

Overall, “Beauty and the Beast: Belle’s Magical World” was an OK film.  I enjoyed the fact that they involved a lot of the characters from the original animated film but by doing that, I understand how some viewers feel it’s like watching several episodes of a cartoon.  But with that being said, it’s a very good family film and a story that children will definitely enjoy!

Beauty and the Beast – THE CRITERION COLLECTION #6 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Beautiful production and set design combined with magical cinematography and solid performances by Josette Day and Jean Marais.  A visual masterpiece by poet/playwright Jean Cocteau that has received two DVD releases in the past from the Criterion Collection, bu this 2011 release looks even better on Blu-ray!

Image courtesy of © Comite Cocteau 1946.  SNC (Groupe M6) 2002.  © 2011 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Beauty and the Beast – THE CRITERION COLLECTION #6

YEAR OF FILM: 1946

DURATION: 93 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: Black and White, Monaural, French with English Subtitles, 1:33:1 Aspect Ratio

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: July 19, 2011

Based on a story by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont

Written and Directed by Jean Cocteau

Executive Producer: Andre Paulve

Music by Georges Auric

Cinematography by Henri Alekan

Edited by Claude Iberia

Production Design by Christian Berard, Lucien Carre

Set Decoration by Lucien Carre, Rene Moulaert

Costume Design by Antonio Castillo, Marcel Escoffier, Christian Berard

Starring:

Jean Marais as La Bete (The Beast)/The Prince/Avenant

Josette Day as Belle

Mila Parely as Felicie

Nane Germon as Adelaide

Michel Auclair as Ludovic

Raoul Marco as The Usurer

Marcel Andre as Belle’s Father

Jean Cocteau’s sublime adaptation of Mme. Leprince de Beaumont’s fairy-tale masterpiece—in which the pure love of a beautiful girl melts the heart of a feral but gentle beast—is a landmark of motion picture fantasy, with unforgettably romantic performances by Jean Marais and Josette Day. The spectacular visions of enchantment, desire, and death in Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et la Bête) have become timeless icons of cinematic wonder.

For many people the days, the mention of “Beauty and the Beast” is something animated by Disney or a TV series from the 1990′s but the story of “Beauty and the Beast” was born as a fairy tale back in the 1740′s by Madame Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve and then revised in 1757 by French novelist Jeanne Marie Le Prince de Beaumont.

But in 1946, director Jean Cocteau (“The Testament of Orpheus”, “Orpheus”, “Les Enfants Terribles”) would take the popular story and adapt it into a live action film known as “La belle et la bete” (Beauty and the Beast) featuring cinematography by Henri Alekan and music by Georges Auric.

The Criterion Collection released “Beauty and the Beast” back in 1998 as #6 in their DVD collection.  The company then re-released the film on DVD in 2003 with a better remaster and more special features  (and years later as a non-Criterion Collection official release without any special features as part of Janus Film’s “Essential Art House” set)  and now a third Criterion Collection release on Blu-ray featuring everything that was on the 2003 special edition DVD but now featured in High Definition.

“Beauty and the Beast” revolves around a young woman named Belle (played by Josette Day) who cares for her father (played by Marcel Andre) and often mistreated by her sisters Felicie (played by Mila Prely) and Adelaide (played by Nane Germon) who want to be part of high society and leave all the housework to Belle.  Her brother Ludovic (played by Michel Auclair) is always scheming to make more money and his friend Avenant (played by Jean Marais) is constantly proposing to Belle for marriage which she continuously turns him down (because she wants to be near her father).

One day, Belle’s father gets lost in the forest and enters a magical castle which is like a fantasy (or nightmare) with hands serving food and holding the lights, statues are alive and eventually the father falls asleep.  When he leaves the castle, he picks a flower and then the beast appears.  The beast threatens to kill the father for theft but allows him to live if he offers one of this three daughters in his place and threatens that if he doesn’t make a decision, his family will pay with their lives.

Thus the father returns home and tells his daughter about their situation and not wanting to see her father suffer, Belle offers herself.  She then rides back to the castle to where the beast lives, not knowing if she will live or die.

As for her father, because his precious Belle has gone off in his place, he is guilt-ridden and starts to become more sick and because Ludovic signed a contract with a money lender allowing him to sue the family if they can’t pay their loan, it hurts the family to the point that the family loses all their possessions including their home.

As for Belle, she is scared of the beast but for the beast, he is enamored that this beautiful woman chose to live with him and tries to propose to her which she quickly turns him down.  But as each day passes, she starts to notice his good qualities and eventually starts to care for him.  But being alone in the castle by herself is not an easy life and when she sees her sick father through a magic mirror,  Belle wishes to return back home for a week.

In order to show how much he trusts her, the beast offers her two items.  A magic glove to transport from her bed at the castle to her bed at home and a special key that unlocks Diana’s pavilion, where the true riches of the beast are kept.

But what happens when Belle returns back home?

VIDEO:

For “Beauty and the Beast”, with the celebration of 100 years in French Cinema back in 1995, the Centre National de l’audiovisuel of Luxembourg in association with the CLT-UFA International began their restoration on “Beauty and the Beast”.  The restoration began with the original nitrate negative which suffered from age-related deterioration.  The negative was cleaned and many of its sprocket holes repaired, so the negative would roll evenly through the gate at 24 frames per second.  A wet-gate process was then used to fill in the scratches and removal of any fine dust.  The restorers then made fine-grain positive elements that became the main source for the new restoration negative.

It’s important to note that “Beauty and the Beast” was among the first DVD’s released by the Criterion Collection back in 1998.  Around 2003, several of their earlier titles received a re-release including a high-definition digital transfer and more special features.  This 2011 Blu-ray release is presented in 1:33:1 ala 1080p High Definition and was created with an HD digital transfer created on a Spirit Datacine from the 35 mm restoration duplicate negative.

According to the Criterion Collection, further restoration was done to manually remove thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter and flicker using MTI’s DRS system and Pixel Farm’s PFClean system, while Digital Vision’s DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain and noise reduction.

The picture quality of “Beauty and the Beast” looked very good for a film that is over 60-years-old on DVD but on Blu-ray, this third release definitely showcases much more detail and better contrast!  Blacks are nice and deep and grays and white also look great.  Granted, it’s not a pristine transfer as their is flickering, visible dust and scratches that can be seen and on Blu-ray, even the grain seems to be much more visible but where this third release outshadows the two previous DVD’s is its contrast and much better detail.

But most important about the film was its technical creativity and how its surreal and fantasy look was captured on film at the time.  Especially the use of slow motion, “Beauty and the Beast” manages to create the magical/fantasy world that much impact back in 1946 and as a viewer, who appreciates how things were done back in the day, you have to really appreciate the look and feel of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the audio, the audio is monaural and was created from an optical soundtrack print and restored at 24-bit using digital audio tools to reduce ticks, pops, hiss and other distortions.  Audio is Dolby Digital 1.0 but I preferred to hear the track coming on all channels via a selection on my home theater receiver for a more pronounced soundscape for the film’s audio.

There is much more clarity with the lossless monaural audio track compared to the original DVD releases.  Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Beauty and the Beast – THE CRITERION COLLECTION #6″ on Blu-ray comes with the following special features:

  • Philip Glass Opera – Featuring a text introduction by Philip Glass, the viewer can also watch the entire film via an operatic version.  Philip Glass is known for taking cinema and then building music and the actual words from the film which are sung via opera.
  • Arthur Knight Commentary - Featuring the original 1991 audio commentary (from the Beauty and the Beast Criterion Collection LD) by film historian Arthur Knight. Knight talks about Cocteau, the difference between the screenplay and the fable, Cocteau’s production diary and the use of slow motion in the film, the first screening and more.
  • Sir Christopher Frayling Commentary – A second audio commentary featuring writer/cultural historian Sir Christopher Frayling recorded for the British Film Institute in 2001.  Frayling goes into furth depth about the era, Cocteau vs. Disney, the pacing of the film and more.
  • Screening at the Majestic – (26:48) A featurette about the making of “Beauty and the Beast” including interviews with director Henri Alekan, actress Mila Parely and actor Jean Marais.  Also, revisiting the location of where the film was shot.
  • Interview with Henri Alekan – (9:14) An interview with Director Henri Alekan to coincide with the restoration of “Beauty and the Beast” in 1995.
  • Secrets Professionnels: Tete a Tete – (8:48) Excerpts from the French television show “Secret Professionnels: Tete a Tete” featuring the trade of Hagop Arakelian, makeup artist on “Beauty and the Beast”.  Aired back on March 12, 1964.
  • Original Trailer – (4:01) Featuring the original theatrical trailer of “Beauty and the Beast”.
  • Restoration Trailer – (1:57) A movie trailer for the restored version of “Beauty and the Beast”.
  • Film Restoration – (4:05) A short featurette on the 1995 restoration of “Beauty and the Beast”.
  • Stills Gallery – Featuring stills by photographer G.R. Aldo, cinematographer for Orson Welle’s “Othello”, Luchino Visconti’s “Senso” and Vittorio De Sica’s “Umberto D.” and “Indiscretion of an American Wife”.

EXTRAS:

“Beauty and the Beast – THE CRITERION COLLECTION #6″ comes with a 34-page booklet which includes the newly added “Dark Magic” by Geoffrey O’Brien”, “Once Upon a Time – French Poet Explains His Filming of a Fairy Tale” by Jean Cocteau”, “On the Making of Beauty and the Beast”, an excerpt by Francis Steegmuller from Cocteau: A Biography” and “Philip Glass on His Opera”.

Note: The original story “Beauty and the Beast” by Mme. Leprince de Beaumont which was included on the special edition DVD booklet is not included on this Blu-ray release.

A masterpiece from Poet-Playwright Jean Cocteau,  “Beauty and the Beast” (La belle et la bete) is definitely one of his most inspired films to help define French cinema at that time.  Sure, we have seen Hollywood create a magical world and characters with “Wizard of Oz” in 1936 but “Beauty and the Beast” is like a painting on a canvas.

Each scene, especially in the magical castle and world of the beast is captured in such beauty with its cinematography especially when Belle enters the castle for the first time and the use of slow motion, to the visual/dark surroundings of the statues that move, the hands and arms extending out to hold a candle or a drink. Production and set design were just as beautiful.  May it be the elaborate look of the home, from its curtains to its silver.  The beast’s palace is just brimming of upper class merchandise but a lonely, dark setting that he can’t even enjoy.

This film is not a happy film like its Disney counterpart.  I’m not quite sure if this film was adored by children back then but I can probably guess that children were more than likely scared of the film as the imagery shows a beast, with this raspy voice that will easy scare you or annoy you (ala the supercomputer in Jean-Luc Godard’s “Alphaville”). But nevertheless, actor Jean Marais has done a good job playing the beast, while main actress, Josette Day as Belle, what a beautiful young maiden did a very good job and made us believe in her fear but her growing compassion towards the beast.

Fascinating and visually creative for its time, “Beauty and the Beast” from the Criterion Collection is a wonderful celebration for Cocteau’s film and as the 2003 special edition DVD was quite unique when it was released, fans of the film and previous owners of the special edition DVD will enjoy the film with much better contrast on Blu-ray in 2011.  While there is nothing new added to the actual content on Blu-ray, there is an additional essay included on the Blu-ray booklet version.

While, there are several wonderful films from filmmaker Jean Cocteau that I would love to see on Blu-ray, “Beauty and the Beast” (Le Belle et La Bete) is one of his classics that showcases his style to surrealism and also emphasis in creating a magical world, especially through costume and design.

“Beauty and the Beast” is a Jean Cocteau film that is recommended on Blu-ray!

BEAUTY & THE BEAST: Diamond Edition on Blu-ray 10/5!

March 30, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Beauty and the Beast: Diamond Edition

On Blu-ray™+ DVD Combo Pack – October 5, 2010
And Standard Definition DVD – November 23, 2010

Burbank, Calif., March 29, 2010 – Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment (WDSHE) proudly announces the Blu-ray high-definition debut of Disney’s animated masterpiece, Beauty and the Beast on October 5, 2010.

Disney’s most requested film, Beauty and the Beast, arrives for the first time on Blu-ray Hi-Def as the second installment to the company’s new Diamond Collection. The Blu-ray transformation reveals the magic, music and majesty of the film as never before experienced with state-of-the-art picture restoration, pristine 7.1 Digital Surround Sound and hours of additional viewing experiences that include behind the scenes features, deleted scenes, enhanced music tracks, immersive games and more.

The first of only two animated films ever to be nominated for an Academy Award® for Best Picture (the second is 2009’s Up), Beauty and the Beast earned six Academy Award® nominations and won two Oscars® in 1992 for Best Original Song (“Beauty and the Beast”) and Best Original Score.

Unavailable in any form since 2003, Beauty and the Beast will be released from the Disney vault for a limited time only, arriving on a Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack (2 Blu-ray Discs + DVD) October 5, followed seven weeks later with the release of a 2-Disc standard definition DVD on November 23.


The Beauty and the Beast Blu-ray™ + DVD Combo Pack has a U.S. suggested retail price of $39.99 and the 2-Disc DVD set has a U.S. suggested retail price of $29.99.

Film Synopsis:

Set in and around a quaint French village during the late 18th century, Beauty and the Beast follows the fantastic adventures of Belle, a bright and beautiful young woman who finds escape from her ordinary life, and the advances of a boorish suitor, Gaston, by reading books. Meanwhile, off in a castle in the distance, a cruel young prince is cast under the spell of an enchantress who turns him into a tormented beast, while transforming his servants into animated household objects. In order to remove the curse, the Beast must discover a true love who will return his affection before the last petal falls from an enchanted rose. When Belle’s inventor father stumbles upon the Beast’s castle and is taken prisoner, Belle comes to the rescue and agrees to take her father’s place. With the help of the castle’s enchanted staff, she sees beneath the Beast’s exterior and discovers the heart and soul of a human prince.

Film Accolades:

Beauty and the Beast received two Academy Awards® for music in 1992, three Golden Globes® for Best Motion Picture, Best Original Score and Best Original Song in 1992, and two Grammy Awards in 1993. Listed as number seven on the American Film Institute’s Top 100 Animated Films, Beauty and the Beast helped define Disney animation for a new generation as the second film in the “Disney Animation Renaissance” (1989-1999) which launched with The Little Mermaid and revitalized animated features by captivating mature audiences while still delighting young viewers.

Beauty and the Beast features a cast of top vocal talent. Veteran stage actress and singer Paige O’Hara is the voice of Belle, one of Disney’s most beloved and independent heroines, and Robby Benson (TV’s “American Dreams”) delivers a powerful portrayal of the Beast. Three-time Oscar®-nominated screen star (The Manchurian Candidate in 1963, The Picture of Dorian Grey in 1946, and Gaslight in 1945) and six-time Golden Globe® award winner (TV’s “Murder, She Wrote” in 1992, 1990, 1987 and 1985, The Manchurian Candidate in 1963, and The Picture of Dorian Grey in 1946), Angela Lansbury gives a bubbly performance as Mrs. Potts. The late Jerry Orbach (TV’s “Law and Order,” “House of Mouse”) shines as the voice of Lumiere, the passionate candelabra, and David Ogden-Stiers (TV’s “M*A*S*H,” Lilo & Stitch) is Cogsworth, the tightly-wound mantel clock who functions as the head of the household.

Beauty and the Beast was also the first Disney animated film to inspire a Broadway stage production by the same name. Highlighting the film’s music by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, seven new songs were written for the stage musical. Beauty… was nominated for nine Tony Awards in 1994 and ran on Broadway for 5,464 performances until 2007, becoming Broadway’s sixth-longest running production in history.

Beauty and the Beast – THE CRITERION COLLECTION #6 (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

February 24, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Beautiful production and set design combined with magical cinematography and solid performances by Josette Day and Jean Marais.  A visual masterpiece by poet/playwright Jean Cocteau!

Image courtesy of © Comite Cocteau © 2003 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Beauty and the Beast – The Criterion Collection #6

DURATION: 93 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Black and White, Monaural (in French with optional English Subtitles), 1:33:1 Aspect Ratio

COMPANY: The Criterion Collection

RELEASED: 2003 (note: This is a remastered re-release with more special features)

Based on a story by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont

Written and Directed by Jean Cocteau

Executive Producer: Andre Paulve

Music by Georges Auric

Cinematography by Henri Alekan

Edited by Claude Iberia

Production Design by Christian Berard, Lucien Carre

Set Decoration by Lucien Carre, Rene Moulaert

Costume Design by Antonio Castillo, Marcel Escoffier, Christian Berard

Starring:

Jean Marais as La Bete (The Beast)/The Prince/Avenant

Josette Day as Belle

Mila Parely as Felicie

Nane Germon as Adelaide

Michel Auclair as Ludovic

Raoul Marco as The Usurer

Marcel Andre as Belle’s Father

Once upon a time, in a world of magic and wonder, the true love of a beautiful girl may finally dispel the torment of a feral but gentle-hearted beast. Beauty and the Beast (La belle et la bête) is a landmark feat of cinematic fantasy in which master filmmaker Jean Cocteau conjures spectacular visions of enchantment, desire, and death that have never been equaled. The Criterion Collection proudly presents the original film version of Mme. Leprince de Beaumont’s fairy-tale masterpiece, in a restored, spectacular special edition.

For many people the days, the mention of “Beauty and the Beast” is something animated by Disney or a TV series from the 1990′s but the story of “Beauty and the Beast” was born as a fairy tale back in the 1740′s by Madame Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve and then revised in 1757 by French novelist Jeanne Marie Le Prince de Beaumont.

But in 1946, director Jean Cocteau (“The Testament of Orpheus”, “Orpheus”, “Les Enfants Terribles”) would take the popular story and adapt it into a live action film known as “La belle et la bete” (Beauty and the Beast) featuring cinematography by Henri Alekan and music by Georges Auric.

The Criterion Collection released “Beauty and the Beast” back in 1998 as #6 in their DVD collection.  The company then re-released the film on DVD in 2003 with a better remaster and more special features. It’s important to note that the better re-release is the version with the cover in color (as seen in the cover art above).

“Beauty and the Beast” revolves around a young woman named Belle (played by Josette Day) who cares for her father (played by Marcel Andre) and often mistreated by her sisters Felicie (played by Mila Prely) and Adelaide (played by Nane Germon) who want to be part of high society and leave all the housework to Belle.  Her brother Ludovic (played by Michel Auclair) is always scheming to make more money and his friend Avenant (played by Jean Marais) is constantly proposing to Belle for marriage which she continuously turns him down (because she wants to be near her father).

One day, Belle’s father gets lost in the forest and enters a magical castle which is like a fantasy (or nightmare) with hands serving food and holding the lights, statues are alive and eventually the father falls asleep.  When he leaves the castle, he picks a flower and then the beast appears.  The beast threatens to kill the father for theft but allows him to live if he offers one of this three daughters in his place and threatens that if he doesn’t make a decision, his family will pay with their lives.

Thus the father returns home and tells his daughter about their situation and not wanting to see her father suffer, Belle offers herself.  She then rides back to the castle to where the beast lives, not knowing if she will live or die.

As for her father, because his precious Belle has gone off in his place, he is guilt-ridden and starts to become more sick and because Ludovic signed a contract with a money lender allowing him to sue the family if they can’t pay their loan, it hurts the family to the point that the family loses all their possessions including their home.

As for Belle, she is scared of the beast but for the beast, he is enamored that this beautiful woman chose to live with him and tries to propose to her which she quickly turns him down.  But as each day passes, she starts to notice his good qualities and eventually starts to care for him.  But being alone in the castle by herself is not an easy life and when she sees her sick father through a magic mirror,  Belle wishes to return back home for a week.

In order to show how much he trusts her, the beast offers her two items.  A magic glove to transport from her bed at the castle to her bed at home and a special key that unlocks Diana’s pavilion, where the true riches of the beast are kept.

But what happens when Belle returns back home?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

It’s important to note that “Beauty and the Beast” was among the first DVD’s released by the Criterion Collection back in 1998.  Around 2003, several of their earlier titles received a re-release including a high-definition digital transfer and more special features.

For “Beauty and the Beast”, with the celebration of 100 years in French Cinema, the Centre National de l’audiovisuel of Luxembourg in association with the CLT-UFA International began their restoration on “Beauty and the Beast”.  The restoration began with the original nitrate negative which suffered from age-related deterioration.  The negative was cleaned and many of its sprocket holes repaired, so the negative would roll evenly through the gate at 24 frames per second.  A wet-gate process was then used to fill in the scratches and removal of any fine dust.  The restorers then made fine-grain positive elements that became the main source for the new restoration negative.

“Beauty and the Beast” is presented in 1:33:1 and the new digital transfer was created from the 35mm restoration duplicate negative on a high-definition Spirit Datacine.  The MTI Digital Restoration System removed thousands of instances of dirt, debris and scratches.

The picture quality of “Beauty and the Beast” looks very good for a film that is over 60-years-old.  Blacks are nice and deep and grays and white also look great.  Granted, it’s not a pristine transfer as their is dust and scratches that can be seen but for the most part, the restoration makes it much better looking than any previous release of the film.  But most important about the film was its technical creativity.  From its surreal and fantasy look, especially the use of slow motion, “Beauty and the Beast” manages to create the magical/fantasy world.

As for the audio, the audio is monaural and was created from an optical soundtrack print and restored at 24-bit using digital audio tools to reduce ticks, pops, hiss and other distortions.  Audio is Dolby Digital 1.0 but I preferred to hear the track coming on all channels via a selection on my home theater receiver for a more pronounced soundscape for the film’s audio.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Beauty and the Beast – THE CRITERION COLLECTION #6″ comes with the following special features:

  • Philip Glass Opera – Featuring a text introduction by Philip Glass, the viewer can also watch the entire film via an operatic version.  Philip Glass is known for taking cinema and then building music and the actual words from the film which are sung via opera.
  • Arthur Knight Commentary - Featuring the original 1991 audio commentary (from the Beauty and the Beast Criterion Collection LD) by film historian Arthur Knight. Knight talks about Cocteau, the difference between the screenplay and the fable, Cocteau’s production diary and the use of slow motion in the film, the first screening and more.
  • Sir Christopher Frayling Commentary – A second audio commentary featuring writer/cultural historian Sir Christopher Frayling recorded for the British Film Institute in 2001.  Frayling goes into furth depth about the era, Cocteau vs. Disney, the pacing of the film and more.
  • Screening at the Majestic – (26:48) A featurette about the making of “Beauty and the Beast” including interviews with director Henri Alekan, actress Mila Parely and actor Jean Marais.  Also, revisiting the location of where the film was shot.
  • Interview with Henri Alekan – (9:14) An interview with Director Henri Alekan to coincide with the restoration of “Beauty and the Beast” in 1995.
  • Secrets Professionnels: Tete a Tete – (8:48) Excerpts from the French television show “Secret Professionnels: Tete a Tete” featuring the trade of Hagop Arakelian, makeup artist on “Beauty and the Beast”.  Aired back on March 12, 1964.
  • Original Trailer – (4:01) Featuring the original theatrical trailer of “Beauty and the Beast”.
  • Restoration Trailer – (1:57) A movie trailer for the restored version of “Beauty and the Beast”.
  • Film Restoration – (4:05) A short featurette on the restoration of “Beauty and the Beast”.
  • Stills Gallery – Featuring stills by photographer G.R. Aldo, cinematographer for Orson Welle’s “Othello”, Luchino Visconti’s “Senso” and Vittorio De Sica’s “Umberto D.” and “Indiscretion of an American Wife”.
  • 32-Page Booklet – Featuring “Once Upon a Time – French Poet Explains His Filming of a Fairy Tale” by Jean Cocteau”, “Notes by Francis Steegmuller from Cocteau: A Biography” and the original story “Beauty and the Beast” by Mme. Leprince de Beaumont.

A masterpiece from Poet-Playwright Jean Cocteau,  “Beauty and the Beast” (La belle et la bete) is definitely one of his most inspired films to help define French cinema at that time.  Sure, we have seen Hollywood create a magical world and characters with “Wizard of Oz” in 1936 but “Beauty and the Beast” is like a painting on a canvas.

Each scene, especially in the magical castle and world of the beast is captured in such beauty with its cinematography especially when Belle enters the castle for the first time and the use of slow motion, to the visual/dark surroundings of the statues that move, the hands and arms extending out to hold a candle or a drink. Production and set design were just as beautiful.  May it be the elaborate look of the home, from its curtains to its silver.  The beast’s palace is just brimming of upper class merchandise but a lonely, dark setting that he can’t even enjoy.

This film is not a happy film like its Disney counterpart.  I’m not quite sure if this film was adored by children back then but I can probably guess that children were more than likely scared of the film as the imagery shows a beast, with this raspy voice that will easy scare you or annoy you (ala the supercomputer in Jean-Luc Godard’s “Alphaville”). But nevertheless, actor Jean Marais has done a good job playing the beast, while main actress, Josette Day as Belle, what a beautiful young maiden did a very good job and made us believe in her fear but her growing compassion towards the beast.

Fascinating and visually creative for its time, “Beauty and the Beast” from the Criterion Collection (the 2003 re-release) is a wonderful celebration for Cocteau’s film.  Overall, “Beauty and the Beast” (Le Belle et La Bete) is definitely recommended!

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