Movie Challenges #5 & #14 and Book Challenge #1

SFP-LaBelleEtLaBete-03Movie Challenge #5: A Foreign Film: La Belle et la Bete

This is a 1947 French version of Beauty and the Beast directed by Jean Cocteau. It’s beautiful and creepy and fascinating and, obviously, follows the original story a bit more closely than the Disney version. Belle lives in big house in France with her father, two sisters, and a brother, whose friend Avenant is always hanging around because he is in love with Belle. The father is a shipping magnate who has lost his fortune when 3 of his ships go missing at sea. They are resigning themselves to a life of poverty when the news comes that one of the ships has returned. The father heads to the port city, only to discover that his debtors have already claimed all of the cargo, and they are just as poor as ever. On the way back home, he gets lost in the woods, finds the Beast’s enchanted castle, and explores a bit. The castle’s enchantments are weird: arms extend from the wall to light the candelabras, faces turn to look at you from the mantlepieces. The father never sees the Beast until he picks a rose to take back to Belle, the only reasonable request from his daughters. The Beast makes a deal with the father that either his daughter will take his place or the father will return within 3 days. Naturally, Belle takes his place and grows fonder of the Beast, etc.

The ending is the most interesting part of the story. When Belle returns to the castle and finds the Beast nearly dead from grief, he transforms into his human character–with the face of the friend Avenant who was in love with Belle! Avenant and Belle’s brother Ludovic had been attempting to break into the building where all the Beast’s wealth was kept, and in the process, a statue who may have been a conduit of the goddess Diana comes to life and kills Avenant, who transforms into a Beast just as the original Beast was transforming. The original Beast’s new human form had a much better haircut than Avenant, did, and was far more attractive that that animated version from Disney. When Rebecca and I watched the movie, we couldn’t decide if the Beast just looked like Avenant or if he actually was some kind of body-snatcher. But either way, it’s an interesting choice for the transformation.

fountainMovie Challenge #14: A Movie Recommend by a Friend Who Loves Movies: The Fountain

Two friends–Bryce and Rebecca, with whom I actually watched the movie–recommended this to me in the past few months. The Fountain is directed by Darren Aronofsky and stars Hugh Jackman (Tommy) and Rachel Weisz (Izzie), who play several different characters throughout the movie. In the present time, Tommy and Izzie are married. Izzie is dying of cancer, and Tommy is trying to find a cure for cancer through experimental drugs and surgery on primates. In the past (around 1500), Izzie is actually the Spanish queen Isabella, and Tommy is Tomas, a Spanish explorer. Isabella sends Tomas on a quest to find the Fountain of Youth, which is contained within the Tree of Life somewhere in the Mayan rainforest. And in the future (around 2500), Tommy is guarding the Tree of Life within a spherical space ship heading toward a nebula. He is haunted by memories (I think?) of Izzie.

I don’t know that I could actually write a summary that fully explains how captivating this movie is. First of all, the cinematography is brilliant. The images of the spaceship and the nebula and the Tree in the forest are some of the most beautiful images I’ve ever seen on film. And Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz give such emotionally captivating performances with very few supporting actors to aid them. This is a movie that I’m going to have to watch many more times to even wrap my brain around some of the ideas of death and life, of reincarnation. ‘

winters-tale-english-5.previewBook Challenge #1: A Book Longer than 500 Pages: Winter’s Tale, Mark Helprin

I don’t even know what to say about this book. There are honestly too many words for me to say about how beautiful and lovely and profound this book is. Back in November, my book club chose this for our January pick, on the premise that, since we wouldn’t be discussing a book in December because of Christmas, we would have 2 months to read Winter’s Tale, which clocks in at 748 pages.

I only need 8 days to read it. It was that good.

The book was made into a movie starring Colin Farrell that we’ll be watching at our book club meeting this weekend, but I can’t even imagine how the movie could convey even a fraction of the story. It’s the story of Peter Lake, a professional burglar, and Beverly Penn, who is dying of consumption in the early part of the 20th century. But that’s not even 100 pages of the book, I don’t think. The book spans a century of New York City life and is as much a love story about the city as it is about Peter and Beverly, or Hardesty and Virginia, or any of the other characters in the story. There’s a massive street gang led by a delightful fellow named Pearly Soames; there’s a group of Indian-like people called the Baymen who raise Peter Lake; there’s a magnificent place called the Lake of the Coheeries that is magical and weird; there’s a bridge-builder named Jackson Meade and his workers Rev. Mootfowl and Mr. Cecil Wooley. There’s a magical cloud wall that transforms everything and there’s a concept of reincarnation that I’m still working around in my brain.

There’s a bit of Dickens here, in the character names and the descriptions of New York as an industrialized city and the discussion of the weird orphanage where Peter Lake grows up. There are strong elements of magical realism very reminiscent of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. There’s a love for place that I’ve really only seen in Henry David Thoreau’s descriptions of Walden Pond.

This is the perfect winter book. I’m going to buy a physical copy of my own someday on the off-chance I’m ever snowbound and need to read a book that won’t make me hate snow and winter. Also, I will be reading this again, I’m sure. Every page of those 748 had some grand treasure, and this quickly became one of my new favorite books.

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One thought on “Movie Challenges #5 & #14 and Book Challenge #1

  1. Katherine says:

    The Fountain is one of my favorites! I watched it in the theater and it was phenomenal. Jonathan and I watched it a month or so ago and I saw new things again (his first view, my thirfourth???).

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