REVIEW / OPINION – After “The Boy and the Beast” and “Miraï, my little sister”, Mamoru Hosoda offers a modern reinterpretation of “Beauty and the Beast” with “Belle”. But the director does not hesitate to deviate from the tale to surprise the viewer …
Beautiful : a second liberating identity
The opening of Beautiful takes the form of a presentation video for a revolutionary application. Called “U”, the latter allows its five billion users to explore a virtual world of endless possibilities with an avatar named AE, created from each person’s biometric data.
In this universe where real personalities can express themselves and talents reveal themselves anonymously, a singer with the pseudonym Belle causes a sensation. In reality, Belle’s name is Suzu. She is a reserved teenager who absolutely does not expect to become the unifying artist to the colossal success of “U”.
After Summer wars, Mamoru Hosoda looks again at social networks through his new animated film. The filmmaker is mainly interested here in their positive and liberating aspects, without denying their deviations. With this application which opens up the field of possibilities and turns the existence of the heroine upside down, the feature film obviously reminds us of Ready Player One, especially in his way of not to oppose the two worlds he portrays but on the contrary, making them complementary. Belle of course needs Suzu, and vice versa.
An approach that is also felt in the aesthetics. When it shows Suzu’s daily life, the Chizu studio develops magnificent frozen paintings. But as soon as he plunges the viewer into “U”, he opts for perpetual movement. The avatars are permanently levitating in this vertical and grid environment. Two radically different frameworks which, in their way of responding to each other to symbolize Suzu’s quiet daily life and Belle’s celebrity, recall the contrast between the world of Men and the world of Beasts in The Boy and the Beast. And like the young Kyuta in this previous work, Suzu needs these two landscapes to evolve.
The feature film probably finds its limits through his modern reinterpretation of The beauty and the Beast. In the app, the heroine meets a mysterious creature who rejects her, before they come to mutual aid. A part where the pace slackens and where the beauty of the songs is not enough to erase some lengths.
It remains nonetheless interesting, in particular for his treatment of self-proclaimed vigilantes of “U”, who seek to reveal the identity of the Beast without ever seeking to understand it or to let it speak, making it reign a tyranny within a free space in order to satisfy their ego.
Mamoru Hosoda throws a few potential leads on the Beast’s true face and builds some suspense around it. But, like when Kyuta returns to her world in The Boy and the Beast whereas the spectator expects only an initiatory journey already consequent in the Beasts, he sweeps them very quickly to enrich his film by offering him a surprising outcome.
An unexpected and poignant trajectory
The romance between Beauty and the Beast turns into poignant story of mutual aid during the last forty minutes, masterful. While the frames of “U” have been somewhat repetitive until then, the director highlights the depth as well as the vastness of this universe in an extremely touching final performance, during which the music becomes the ultimate. recourse to try to save the Beast. The gigantic aspect of this world which can bring together billions of users simultaneously takes on its full meaning in this conclusion, where an unexpected comment about mistreatment emerges and hits the mark.
Yes Beautiful shows the benefits of anonymity as a vector of free expression, Mamoru Hosoda does not forget that the facade image offered by social networks can also serve the executioners. Resolutely optimistic, however, the film does not lack nuances and refuses a fictitious naivety. The director certainly delivers a consensual message, but his ability to surprise by thwarting expectations vis-à-vis his story – which here is not the traditional romance of The beauty and the Beast – despite everything strengthens its power.
Beautiful by Mamoru Hosoda, released on December 29, 2021. Above the trailer. Find all our trailers here.