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Times of India
The classic fairytale of love between an unlikely pair - the Beauty (played by Seydoux) who falls for the Beast (played by Cassel) after her father becomes indebted to him - gets a retelling.
A wealthy merchant (Dussolier) has come upon some hard times. The downturn in business is something that he cannot recover from so easily unless some really drastic steps are taken. He has a large family to take care of (six children) and living in the big city is simply not financially viable anymore. So, he decides to relocate to the countryside and lead a simple and relatively rustic life in tranquil settings.
His daughters are however, used to their old life and are understandably not thrilled at all at the idea. The only exception is his youngest - Belle (Seydoux) - who actively yearns for mellowness, tranquility and an environment that can soothe her gentle but inquisitive soul.
Later, when in a forest, the merchant ventures into a magical, mystery land that no one knows about. The Beast (Cassel) holds sway here. The merchant tries to steal something and is caught by the Beast who tells him that his thievery will not go unpunished. Belle, racked with guilt that her dad got into trouble because of wanting to get her something nice, steals back to the Beast's castle and offers to face the punishment. The well-known story then follows its oft-told course till the fairytale conclusion.
Gans opts for a fantastical route rather than exploring the darker side of this tale. He dresses up his characters in costumes that look a bit kitschy; although Belle's red attire does at times contrast starkly with her surroundings at times. Additionally, some of the scenes between Belle and Beast are too cold. When, as per the fairytale, it is revealed that she loves him, you might wonder whether she's actually serious as their onscreen chemistry is somewhat lacking. That said, the visuals are elaborate and that makes it watchable. However, there's a lot more that Gans could have done with this revered and traditional fairytale.
The film has been nominated for the People's Choice Award at the 27th European Film Awards.
In Japan, the film topped the box-office on it's release, making it the first foreign film to do well at the Japanese box-office since Red Cliff II in 2009.
More than 20 versions of the fairy tale 'Beauty and the Beast' have been made into films and television series in the past.
The movie is set in France in the early 1800s. It traces the story of a merchant who has been widowed who is wealthy and has six daughters. However, a reversal in fortunes leads the merchant to go bankrupt and so he has to forsake many expensive items and also sell his town house and move to the country to a much simpler home. None of his children are happy with the idea except for his youngest daughter who doesn't mind the shift. The merchant's hopes are raised one day when they hear about one of his ships actually coming in to port with expensive cargo. He and his eldest son go back to the town with the intention of collecting the goods in the hope that they can reverse their financial situation. Unfortunately, the said goods are impounded and the merchant has to escape and head to a forest after he is threatened by a crook.
He comes across the land of the Beast in the forest and is quite taken in by the place. Apart from stealing some items, he also tries to steal a rose for his daughter. However, he is caught by the Beast and although being allowed to go back home to say goodbye to his kids, he must return to face the punishment. Belle however, is guilt-ridden about her father's situation and goes out herself to the castle of the Beast to face the punishment herself. The Beast and her become acquainted instead. She is allowed access to plenty of luxuries but must have dinner with him every night. She also has dreams at night about the same castle and a prince who lived there and was in love with a princess. This prince used to hunt a golden deer and was cursed when he killed it. Only the true love of somebody who loved him despite his appearance could remove the curse.
Belle visits her family after a while after getting permission from the Beast and sees her father bedridden and her family being harassed by a family enemy. Her eldest brother is impressed with her attire and thinks that the castle might hold some additional treasures for them to loot. So, he along with some company heads back to the castle to steal some treasure and this includes a golden arrow.
It is then that Belle has a vivid dream about the the prince who killed the golden deer and was cursed, as mentioned earlier. The deer he killed was a forest nymph and her father was the god of the forest who cursed the prince for killing his daughter. When she wakes up, she realizes that her brother has gone to the castle. She rushes there to stop him from doing anything but the Beast is already making short work of the intruders. When Belle begs for mercy, one of the raiding party shoots the Beast with the golden arrow, which mortally wounds him. While dying, the Beast asks whether Belle loves him despite the way he looks. When she replies in the affirmative, the curse is broken and he emerges as the prince. The story ends with the two living happily ever after, with two children of their own.