Beauty and the Beast Films Discussion by Rachel Ayers


Here we have Rachel's thoughts about several Beauty and the Beast films as part of Fairy Tale Film Month. You still have time to contribute, too! But for now, I'll turn the time over to Rachel:

Beauty and the Beast has long been one of my favorite fairy tale,
especially as I discovered the roots of the story in the Norwegian
East of the Sun, West of the Moon. (Both stories of young girls who
go to live with a Beast for the sake of their family's well-being; she
has a chance to break the spell, blows it, gets another chance, and
changes him back to human. Of course the second chance is a little
more complicated in East of the Sun, West of the Moon, but the essence
of the story is the same.) It's one of the fairy tales that feel like
it is about true love and friendship, rather than love at first sight.
I have come to appreciate those types of tales more and more as they
are few and far between.

Naturally, whenever a movie comes out with the premise of Beauty and
the Beast, I am interested (although I have certainly not seen all of
them). When Beastly came out earlier this year, I went to see it. I
think it got a raw deal in reviews. Okay, I admit, it's not the best
movie ever, but it does the story (and the book it's based on)
justice. I mean, it IS about a man-monster blackmailing another man
into sending his daughter along as a get-out-of-trouble-free card. And
although I wish they'd stuck more with the magic mirror than the
physical stalking--well, is one really any better than the other?

Beastly wasn't great, but it was enjoyable. Neil Patrick Harris
cracked me up every time he was on screen. And I do appreciate that
the filmmakers gave the characters time to develop their relationship
on screen: it seems like most young adult movies involve the
characters falling instantly in love and then fighting for the rest of
the film until they finally realize they fell in love back at the

As with many of us, I am sure, my first introduction to Beauty and the
Beast was through Disney. Although I've come to appreciate more of
the problems of the Disney version (if a woman is pretty and sweet,
she can change a man from a violent beast into a kind and gentle
person), it's still one of my favorite Disney films. At least you
have a heroine who is bookish and smart, has some moxie and her own
interests for once. I still catch myself singing "Gaston" from time
to time.

(To be fair, Cinderella and Snow White were busy cleaning, and
Sleeping Beauty was busy... well... sleeping.)

I recently saw Jean Cocteau's version for the first time: what a
delight. Although it's perhaps the weirdest version I've ever seen,
with several elements that made me go "whaaaaat?" it is a truly
gorgeous film. Of course, many of those strange elements (like the
snarky family and the Beast's magical items) are part of the tale
popular among the French aristocracy in the 1700s. Still, the Beast's
smoking hands may have gotten a chuckle out of me....

Once upon a (recent) time, I was watching all the Faerie Tale Theatre
episodes again, for the first time since waaaay back. I was stunned
when I got to the Beauty and the Beast episode--it's a pared-down
version of Cocteau's film. The camera angles and special effects are
set up almost exactly the same (except I guess Faerie Tale Theatre's
budget didn't cover the floating-away sequence at the end). When I
realized that Faerie Tale Theatre pre-dated Disney's Beauty and the
Beast, it made sense--and made me realize that, despite all my
readings of earlier versions, and being a fairy tale snob... I still
thought of Beauty and the Beast in terms of the Disney version.

I admit, my favorite versions of the story have not seen the light of
the big screen--or even the home viewing screen. Still, I'll continue
to pay to see whatever versions Hollywood or TV networks put out, in
the hopes that they'll one day make a beautiful adaptation of my
favorite story--Juliet Marillier's Heart's Blood, perhaps?

Rachel Ayers


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