Oscar History

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May Flowers: Beauty & The Beast (1991)

may flowers

Under the heading of Better Late Than Never, let's take a look at Disney's classic Beauty & The Beast (1991). We ... or I should say you... covered it previously in the Hit Me With Your Best Shot series. I stumbled and fell down its gothic mansion steps, completely missing that spinning gala ball. (You know the one: Angela Lansbury sang the theme song in the background.) The related truth of the matter is that Belle isn't so punctual herself. She arrives at basically the last possible moment to rescue The Beast from the ancient curse. If he doesn't find true requited love before his magic flower loses its last petal, he remains a beast forever.

Halfway through the movie, Belle, against her captor's wishes, heads into the forbidden West Wing where she sees two distorted images. The first is her own face fractured into a half a dozen pieces in a broken mirror. The second is a portrait of The Beast, in his original form as the Handsome Prince Not-So Charming; hence, the curse.

In these two closely related nearly consecutive images, her beauty is momentarily as ravaged as his. It's a smart visual foreshadowing that they're actually soul mates, though neither of them know that yet. Belle does not jump in fear when she sees her own face splintered as many people do when surprised by a discomfiting reflection. Her curiousity is always engaged, proving a far more defining character trait of this particular heroine than fear. (She's not, as we realize fairly in the narrative, your garden variety damsel in distress.)

Moments later, distracted by a glow behind her, she finds the Beast's magical flower. In this riveting shot, my choice for the film's best as its gorgeously composed and marries color, character and narrative,  he leaps in to shield the flower from her curiousity. Curiousity may kill the cat, but the Beast is no feline; sure he's lion-like but this species is Hocusus Pocusus.

Do you realize what you could have done?

...he bellows, but are magical flowers, really that delicate? We're guessing no.

What he's really protecting is his own heart. It's the Beast and not the Beauty who is emotionally fragile. It's The Beast and not the Beauty who is emotionally rather than intellectually or physically driven, making Beauty & The Beast a wonderful twist on the traditional gender roles that Disney fairy tales spring from.

Pleasurable as that twist alone would be, the film is yet richer.

Allowing yourself to love and to be loved in return, something The Beast has yet to master, is neither a feminine nor a masculine challenge, but a human struggle. Beauty and The Beast has one of the best scores in animated musical history, but a Madonna song thrums in the background for me as the alternate and most descriptive soundtrack of The Beast's emotional journey.

You're so consumed with how much you get
You waste your time on hate and regret,
You're broken...
when you're hearts not open

Love is a bird, she needs to fly
Let all the hurt inside of you die
You're frozen...
when your hearts not open

Mmmm, if Belle can melt his heart. Mmmm, they'll never be apart.

If you missed the delicious group celebration, please visit these fine blogs which all sounded off on their favorite shots within the first animated feature to ever be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. The next episode of Hit Me With Your Best Shot will be on June 1st @ 9 PM EST when we celebrate the tenth anniversary of MOULIN ROUGE!

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Reader Comments (5)

Love this film and I loved how you pointed out those May Flowers. Great post!

May 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDan O.

Love this movie. It's up there with my favourite Disneys, if not quite the top. I really wish I'd been able to rewatch with you guys. I'm pretty determined to contribute next time, though!

May 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMD

One of my all time favorite animated movies! It's right up there with the Little Mermaid, also by Disney. Oh, for the days of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman (RIP), the duo that created such marvelous scores and memorable songs.

May 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBlinking Cursor

This post makes me realize that it has been well over a decade since I have seen this movie, and it gives me a good reason to return.

May 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H

Beautiful post Nathaniel! Thanks so much.
And Frozen is indeed fitting ;)

May 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames T
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