Disney's live-action Beauty and the Beast comes out on Blu-ray and digital download Tuesday June 6, but if you're dying for some Belle and Beast non-animated action, then you can hop onto Netflix right now. Christophe Gans's sumptuous 2014 version is a feast for the eyes and for the ears. Still not sold? Here are five reasons to give the French version a watch.
1. It's French
Growing up as #Disney kids, most fans probably didn't think much about the fact that the only French-sounding character in the (excellent) animated film was a talking candelabra. But Beauty and the Beast is, in fact, a French fairytale that takes place in — wait for it — France. So if you've always wondered how La Belle et la Bête would sound in French, Gans has you covered. While you await Emma Watson and Dan Stevens' take on the tale, you can be a guest at Léa Seydoux and Vincent Cassel's enchanted castle and allow them to enrapture you with only their words.
2. Magic Is In The Air — Literally
Gans's French #fairytale is rife with magic. In the animated film there is definitely a heaping helping of alchemy at play, but it seems limited to just the castle. In Gans's version there is an entire world of magic. While the story does primarily deal with Beast's curse, how he receives it is different to the Disney versions, opening up this fictional France as home to all manner of mythological creatures, from nymphs to gods and goddesses.
3. The World Is Breathtaking
Not only do you feel like you've glimpsed another world, but that that world is beautiful. What Gans may lack in story he more than makes up for in aesthetics. Anyone who has seen Brotherhood of the Wolf knows Gans never disappoints with his stunning visuals, and in Beauty and the Beast he has outdone himself. If a painting came to life, accented by the soundtrack of a ballet dancer's sweet, sweet dream, you would have Gans's #BeautyandtheBeast.
From Belle's cottage to the snowy forests to Beast's incredible castle, there is a series of gorgeous living tapestries for your eyes to feast on. Seydoux's Belle is framed into each scene with perfection, fitting into worlds mundane and magical with absolute ease, a true magical princess before the title is ever officially hers. Gans's world and heroine are tirelessly captivating.
Belle may be missing out on singing cutlery and a chatty wardrobe, but she isn't without adorable animated companions. As Belle takes to exploring her new home and unlocking the secrets of the castle's lonely owner, the Tadommes take to following her just about everywhere. They're shy, big-headed, silly little creatures that help keep our heroine from being entirely friendless in her early days with Beast. Also, they enjoy making her presents, like dolls, and camping out in her room at night. They may not sing, cook, or clean, but they are darn cute.
5. Be Our Dress — Er, Guest
Seydoux doesn't get Belle's trademark golden dress for her ballroom scene with Beast (although there is a ballroom scene), but who cares? Have you seen the dresses she does get? Everyday Belle awakens to find a new gown awaiting her, and though it may be impractical to wander the forested grounds in such flowing skirts, it certainly doesn't stop her.
Belle looks like a princess as she climbs twisted trees and runs after deer, or races on horseback through a snow-coated forest, her golden hair loose and flowing around her. Seydoux's sharp gaze keeps Belle grounded and interesting, so you feel her resolve, her edge, her compassion with the smallest of facial expressions. It doesn't seem ridiculous when she hikes up her skirts and runs through the bushes; her fantastical gowns look equally at home in a ballroom and a forest.
She goes through several dresses in the course of the film, but her final one is the most gasp-inducing — a brilliant scarlet concoction that plays off Beast's deep-red get-up. The result is an eye-catching signature look perfect for the final big act of the film. Gans loves putting his actors in red (especially Cassel, who was also clad in brilliant ruby tones toward the end of Brotherhood of the Wolf), and he knows exactly how to use the color to its best effect.
Christopher Gans's 2014 Beauty and the Beast is not a perfect film, the romance not as fleshed out as it should be. He squanders time on secondary characters and makes the audience wait before Belle and Beast even meet. Anyone unfamiliar with the story will end the film a little confused about when and how the pair actually decided they were in love. Despite the lead's excellent chemistry and brilliant acting, there simply aren't enough scenes of the two of them spending genuine time together. It is unfortunate that a film with such a wonderful cast missed such a mark.
But Gans's film is undeniably beautiful and expertly shot, the visuals and score are transporting, and Seydoux uses her time on screen effectively, giving us a Belle that is kind and warm, sharp and sarcastic. She is not a soft creature, but a young woman of many facets, unashamed to show fear and capable of conquering that fear without the assistance of others. Cassel's Beast comes out the worse of the two, having very little screen time in the grand scheme of things and virtually no development — especially painful since Cassel too often plays the villain, and it was so refreshing to see him cast as the romantic lead in a beloved story.
A mixed bag of gifts, Gans's Beauty and the Beast is most certainly worth a watch and Seydoux's Belle should find herself most deservedly in the pantheon of great fantasy heroines. Perhaps one day we will be given the extended cut this version so richly deserves, but until then, check out the regular cut, streaming on #Netflix now.
Which is your favorite version of Beauty and the Beast? Watson and Stevens? The animated film? Seydoux and Cassel? Perhaps Jean Cocteau's 1946 black-and-white adventure? Let us know in the comments below.