Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the big weekend movies, the live action version of “Beauty and the Beast,” the drug addled “T2 Trainspotting” and the no-holds-barred “Goon: Last of the Enforcers.”
Richard sits in on the CFRA Morning Show with host Bill Carroll to talk about the weekend’s big releases, the live action version of “Beauty and the Beast,” the drug addled “T2 Trainspotting,” the no-holds-barred “Goon: Last of the Enforcers,” and “The Sense of an Ending” with Jim Broadbent.
Poet Paul Éluard said that to understand Jean Cocteau’s 1946 version of La Belle et la Bête — Beauty and the Beast — you must love your dog more than your car. His comment is baffling only if you haven’t seen the movie.
Once Cocteau’s film is seen, it’s apparent that what makes his version rewarding is that it values the organic over the mechanical — even the special effects are handmade. It refuses to allow the technical aspects of the film to interfere with the humanity of the story.
This weekend Disney will have their collective fingers crossed that audiences will favour their poodles over their RVs as they release the big-budget, live-action version of Beauty and the Beast starring Emma Watson.
Director Bill Condon says the animated 1991 Disney classic was an inspiration for the new film, but adds he also drew from everything from Twilight and Frankenstein to a 1932 musical comedy called Love Me Tonight when creating the look for the new movie.
He also mentions La Belle et la Bête. “A film I really love.” His take on the Beast looked back to the movie, cribbing the character’s combination of ferocity and romance from Cocteau.
Before taking in the new version this weekend, let’s have a look back at the little-seen 70-year old Cocteau classic.
Loosely based on the timeless Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont fairy tale, the action in La Belle et la Bête begins when a poverty-stricken merchant pilfers a rose from a grand estate owned by a strange creature. The Beast strikes a deal with the man.
He’ll spare the life of the merchant in return for the hand of one of the man’s daughters. Reluctantly the merchant offers Belle, a beautiful girl who had been courted by the oafish Avenant.
At first she is repulsed by the Beast, who looks like the love child of the Wolf Man and Mrs. Chewbacca, but over time his tender ways and nightly offers of marriage warm her heart and she learns to love him for his inner beauty.
Cocteau’s version strays from the original story and Condon’s adaptation with the addition of a subplot involving Avenant’s scheme to kill the Beast and make off with his treasures and an unexpected magical personality switcheroo.
It’s meant to be a happy ending, but not everyone loved the new coda. When Marlene Dietrich saw an early cut of the film at a private screening, she squeezed Cocteau’s hand and said, “Where is my beautiful Beast?”
Other audiences embraced Cocteau’s vision. In his diary the poet wrote of a test screening held for the technicians in the Joinville Studio were the film had been made. “The welcome the picture received from that audience of workers was unforgettable,” he wrote.
Others criticized La Belle et la Bête for its straightforwardness, complaining that the characters are simply drawn, the story one dimensional. Taking that view, however, misses Cocteau’s point.
At the beginning of the film he asks for “childlike simplicity,” inviting the viewer to connect with their inner child, eschew cynicism and embrace naiveté for the film’s 96-minute running time.
In 1946 the request was meant as a salve for a post-occupation France that was still dealing with the aftermath of a terrible war.
Today, in an increasingly contemptuous world, the message still seems timely and welcome.
Poet Paul Éluard said that to understand Jean Cocteau’s 1946 version of “La Belle et la Bête”—“Beauty and the Beast”—you must love your dog more than your car. It’s a good line that suggests Cocteau’s adaptation values the organic elements of the film — even the special effects are handmade—while refusing to allow the technical aspects of the film to interfere with the humanity of the story.
The same can’t be said of the new, big budget live action Disney version of the story. Inspired by their classic 1991 animated story of belle and beast, the remake relies too heavily on computer generated splendour and too little on the innate charms of the story.
Emma Watson plays the bright and beautiful Belle, the independent-minded daughter of eccentric inventor Maurice (Kevin Kline). She is, as the townsfolk warble, “strange but special, A most peculiar mad’moiselle!” She has caught the eye of dimwitted war hero Gaston (Luke Evans) who unsuccessfully tries to win her hand.
Taking one of his new gizmos to market Maurice picks a rose as a present for Belle but runs afoul of the Beast (Dan Stevens). Once a self-centered prince, he was changed into a part-man, part-wolf, part Chewbacca creature by a witch as punishment for his hedonistic life. The only way to beak the spell, she cackles, is to find someone to love him before the last petal falls off an enchanted rose. “Who could love a beast?” he asks.
On the hunt for her father, she makes her way to the Beast’s remote castle only to find Maurice locked up for rose theft. She pleads with her hairy host for a moment with her father, and while giving him a hug pushes him out of the cell, slamming the door behind her. Trading her freedom for his, she is now the Beast’s prisoner. The staff—once human, now transformed into the enchanted candlestick Lumiere (Ewan McGregor), Cogsworth the clock (Ian McKellen), a teapot Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson) and wardrobe (Audra McDonald) although it feels like a missed opportunity to not have Daniel Craig play a eavesdropping microwave—see Belle as just the person to look past his ghastly appearance and see the true princely beauty within and lift his curse and theirs.
Director Bill Condon has made a classic big screen musical with state of the art special effects. Up front is a perfectly cast Emma Watson, who brings more tenacity to the character than we’ve seen in past versions as well as a considerable amount of charm. She is the movie’s beating heart, the human presence in the midst of a considerable amount of pomp and circumstance.
Condon decorates the screen, over-dressing almost every scene with layers of pageantry and CGI. It entertains the eye, particularly in the Busby Berkeley style “Be Our Guest” sequence but overwhelms the film’s humanity. This is a movie that loves its car more than its dog.
“Beauty and the Beast” is a handsome, straightforward movie that adds little to the animated classic. Some of the details have changed. Belle and Beast mourn their deceased mothers and Gaston’s minion Le Fou (Josh Gad) is now gay but the dreamlike of the 1991 version is lacking. The story just seems less magical when built from a collection of pixels.
Richard sits in on the CJAD Montreal morning show with Andrew Carter to discuss the weekend’s big releases, the live action version of “Beauty and the Beast,” the drug addled “T2 Trainspotting” and the no-holds-barred “Goon: Last of the Enforcers.”
The title of the new Meryl Streep movie, “Ricki and the Flash,” sounds like a comic book flick about a regular, but spunky teen and the DC Comic character known for super human speed. No, Streep hasn’t joined the ranks of elder actors lending credibility to superhero movies and there’s not a skintight red superhero outfit in sight. Instead, there’s the black leather and fringes of Meryl’s rock ‘n’ roll Ricki, lead singer of bar band The Flash.
Ricki is a rock ‘n’ roll road warrior who never cracked the big time. Twenty five years ago she left behind her comfortable Midwestern life and family—husband (Kevin Kline) and three kids (including Julie, played by Streep’s real-life daughter Mamie Gummer)—for a shot at stardom in Los Angeles. Her one album didn’t chart and now she staves off bankruptcy by day as a grocery clerk, by night playing Golden Oldie covers in a seedy San Fernando Valley bar.
Out of the blue her ex gives her a ring with bad news. Julie’s husband has left her for a younger woman and he’d like her to come to Ohio to comfort her distraught daughter. Despite not having seen Julie in years she returns. Cue the family drama as Ricki tries to make amends for choosing rock and roll over her family.
Streep may not be playing a superhero in “Ricki and the Flash,” but she does a superhuman job of carrying the movie. Ricki is a raw nerve who says what’s on her mind whether she’s on stage or off, and Meryl rocks it. She strums and hums her way through a contrived script by “Juno” writer Diablo Cody that doesn’t add much to the family drama or rock movie genres.
Kline, Rick Springfield and Gummer hit the right notes, but are saddled with dialogue that sounds melodramatically overwritten—“My heart is dead and rotten,” sobs Julie.—or like a Successstory platitude—“It doesn’t matter if you kids love you,” says Springfield, “it’s your job to love them.” Missing are Cody’s usual wit and director Jonathan Demme’s careful examination of his characters. Instead they’ve opted for a blandly crowd-pleasing movie that isn’t as crowd-pleasing as they might have hoped.
“Ricki and the Flash” is about the power of music to break down barriers and bring people together, but as well shot as the music scenes are—and they should be, Demme made one of the great music films of all time, “Stop Making Sense,” among many others—the movie hits the wrong notes when the music stops.
The last time Kevin Kline journeyed to France on film, he played a French jewel thief who duped Meg Ryan into committing a crime in “French Kiss.” In “My Old Lady” he’s back in the City of Light but this time around he’s a desperate, down-on-his luck New Yorker who inherits an apartment from his late father, only to find it comes with strings.
Kline is Mathias Gold who travels to Paris in the hope of selling his estranged father’s huge and valuable apartment. He’s broke and has three ex-wives to go along with the three novels he wrote and never published. When he arrives his lack of proficiency in French isn’t his only problem. An elderly English woman, Mathilde Girard (Maggie Smith) lives in the apartment with her daughter Chloé (Kristin Scott Thomas). The apartment is a “viager,” and according to French real estate laws, because Mathilde has possession of the place Gold must pay her a “rent” of 2400 euros a month until she dies. If he defaults, she keeps the flat. “I own this apartment and I also own you,” he says. As tensions run high the old lady makes a startling revelation. “Your father and I were lovers since I was twenty-nine,” she says. “If you want to know for whom you are named, you are named for me. I am Mathilde, you are Mathias.”
“My Old Lady” is the kind of film that is enhanced by its performances. What begins as a fish out of water story about real estate and desperation slowly becomes a character study. It’s very theatrical, which makes sense given playwright-turned-film-director Israel Horowitz’s background, but the stage-bound feel doesn’t take away from the rawness of the emotions or the snappiness of the dialogue. By turns comedic, by turns tragic, “My Old Lady’s” carefully crafted acting earns it a recommend.
If you can’t make it to the Toronto International Film Festival but still want to get a flavour of the films, the Reel Guys — Richard Crouse and Mark Breslin — have some movies and some memories for you. They’ve been attending the festival for years and have seen it all, from actors’ tears to classic films to medical emergencies to stars being born. It’s a wild time, but like Dr. Hunter S. Thompson said, “Buy the ticket, take the ride.”
Richard: Mark, I’ve been going to TIFF for 30 years and covering it for almost 20 so I can’t even begin to imagine how many movies I’ve seen in the 10 days after the first Thursday after Labour Day. Hundreds? Thousands? Somewhere in between, I’m sure. There have been many standouts, but my mind immediately goes to Lost in Translation. Perhaps because it’s Bill Murray Day (isn’t every day?), but I remember walking out of that theatre thinking I had just seen a star being born. Bill Murray was great, but Scarlett Johansson was memorable. She had been in things before, but that movie and TIFF made her a star that day.
Mark: Great film, Richard, but I saw it on a rainy night in Vancouver. If you want to go way, way back, I saw the gala premiere of The Big Chill at University Theatre in 1983. It was the first film that channeled baby boomer angst and it hit me hard — in a good way. So many great performances, but I still remember William Hurt and Kevin Kline. Meg Tilly has the best line when she says, “I don’t know many happy people. What are they like?”
RC: One of the things that happens at TIFF is you see movies that never open anywhere for some reason. What Doesn’t Kill You, a gritty crime drama set in South Boston starring Ethan Hawke, Mark Ruffalo and Amanda Peet, was one of those. I really liked the movie and I hosted the press conference and that’s where something really memorable, for me, happened. During the conference, I looked over and Ruffalo had his head in his hands. At first I wasn’t sure what was happening. Was he tired? Taking a break from the conversation? Asleep? Turns out the conversation and questions had made him emotional and he was crying. I didn’t expect him to break down into tears and be unable to speak, but Hawke jumped in and spoke about how Ruffalo is a committed actor who completely throws himself into his roles.
MB: There’s more to that story … Just before the press conference, for no apparent reason, I shivved Ruffalo in the left kidney, and he must have been in a lot of pain. But I know what you mean by movies that don’t open. The film immediately disappeared. Then there was the recent Lebanese movie The Attack, which was a harrowing story of a Palestinian doctor who finds out his wife is a terrorist. After the film, the director did a Q&A describing death threats he got and the tribulations he endured just to get the film made. It was almost as good as the film itself.
RC: You never know what will happen at the screenings, whether it’s a wild Q&A or the audience reaction. A few years ago the amputation sequence in Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours, was so intense several members of the audience required medical attention.
MB: Sometimes the volume of movies you see yields unexpected results. I remember the Saturday night I saw Jason Reitman’s Up In The Air immediately followed by the Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man. My two favourite movies of 2009, back to back!