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Beauty and The Beast (La Belle et la Bête)
Your October 2007 RMC Results Are In!

Tagline: None

Preshow Entertainment: Joe Jackson Live in Tokyo

If you want special effects, see TRANSFORMERS. If you want effects that are special, see Jean Cocteau's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST


The Big Papa Pizza!
This RMC, Albano's was picked, but apparently they are no longer there. Just as well, they screwed up our simple order badly last time. So another place was randomly selected. I'm always thrilled when Big Mama and Big Papa pizza is chosen. If you're wondering why I'm so happy, click here.


Joe Jackson's been through many changes in his musical career. He's even switched up his hits, frequently doing radically different arrangements. And throughout the years I've stuck by him. From New Wave to Jazz to Classical to Bebop to his soundtracks for TUCKER and MIKE'S MURDER.

Joe Jackson Live In Tokyo
In 1986, Jackson did a few nights at New York's Roundabout Theater. He would record his new album, BIG WORLD, in front of a live audience. I went to one of those shows. I remember him pleading with the crowd (sometimes in vain) not to make a sound during, or even after the song. The album was mixed live, right there and then, which is pretty cool. What you hear on the record was what we heard in the theater. What you won't hear is someone yelling out "Whipping Post".

In the early '90s I directed a live show called THE TELEVISION SHOW. I needed someone to do the programs for me, and somehow I hooked up with a fellow named Rick Ford. He was doing some "desktop publishing" then, and he was nice enough to help me out. Little did I know that he was Joe Jackson's bass player on that Big World album and tour.

Anyway, that's the tour we watched. The Big World tour, performed in Tokyo. It's a great album and a great show. No real hits came from the record itself, but many, maybe all, of the songs are worthy. Jackson was a great songwriter then, and still is now.


I've wanted to see Jean Cocteau's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST forever.

When I worked in video stores in NYC in the '80s, before the New Release/"What's new that's in stock that I haven't seen" mentality, the Village people could not get enough art films, outsider films, independent films (in the true meaning, before what they are now), foreign films, and splashes of Ed Wood. Invariably, a day would not pass when someone asked for Cocteau's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. Was that hint enough for me to watch it? NOPE.

Dissolve to: the mid-'90s. I was over someone's house who had a high-end big screen. He threw BATB up and there I was, watching it on a laser disc...during a party. But I only got to see a snippet before it was turned off in favor of BRAZIL (which I also have not yet seen). You ask, did you race home and watch the movie (I had it), or even rent the laser for a crisper copy? NOPE.

Seeing this movie is the raison d' êrte of Random Movie Club. Because without RMC, I was too stupid to premeditate watching a viewing on my own. Sometimes I just hate myself. ("Let's see, should I watch THE GRAND ILLUSION or ICE AGE 2. Hmmm...") But now, finally, on October 19, 2007, I got to watch it. That's the beauty of the beast known as RMC. And it was worth the wait.

Cocteau opens the film with a preamble about childhood, reminiscent of the one at the head of THE WIZARD OF OZ. He urges us to view the film with the innocence of a child. The text's last words - "Once Upon a Time..."

Belle (or Beauty) is one of three sisters, the other two being money-hungry brats (quick, name a fairy tale where sisters aren't evil). She is also preyed upon by Avenant, a relentless suitor who sees Belle as the real prize of the three sisters (she is). He even asks her to marry him, but she declines. When Belle's dad thinks his ship has come in (literally), he travels through the forest only to discover he was wrong. But on his return trip he gets lost and stumbles upon an eerie yet magical castle hidden in the woods. Tired and hungry, he enters.

Belle in the Enchanted Castle
The walls are lined with human arms holding candelabras which move as he moves. Now at this point, no matter how hungry I was, I would have run out that door in land-speed time, even if there was a Hometown Buffet inside. But that's just me. The father keeps going. Maybe he didn't notice the arms, or the various statues' eyes moving, following him.

He's treated to food and wine, but the host remains absent. Exiting, he sees a beautiful rose. Remembering Belle asked him to bring her a rose (the evil sisters wanted expensive items), he plucks it. And...the Beast appears.

As a penalty for rose-picking, the father must either sacrifice his own life or the life of his daughter (apparently he is a draconian beast). And like any noble dad, he chooses the daughter. Well, okay, not really. But when he gets home, Belle finds out and sacrifices herself, heading full speed to the castle. And it is here she discovers that though the Beast may look...beastly, he's actually got some sort of heart in there. And as the two become closer it becomes clear to Belle and to us that beauty is indeed only skin deep. I mean, once you get past all that fur.

The Beast asks Belle to marry him and she declines, citing the time-honored "just friends" defense. Later, she learns of her father's illness and begs the Beast to let her return home. The Beast signs off for her 10 day return trip, but cautions her - if she does not return, he will surely die of a broken heart. And nobody, not me not you, wants to see the Beast die.

Well, almost nobody. When Belle returns home, her conniving sisters, brother, and Avenant learn of the Beast's castle full of treasure and hatch a plan. Will they kill the Beast and get the riches? Will Belle return in time (or at all) to save the Beast's life? Or will the Beast die of a broken heart? You should watch this movie and find out. Don't be like me and wait for chance. Rent the DVD, which I'm told has been redone to eyepopping satisfaction.

BATB is often cited for its effects. Magical and even whimsical, it does have some moments that are just perfect. See, here's my take on effects in movies. They need to come from a place within the character and/or story. It's why I don't give a flying Ewok what happens to anyone with the surname Skywalker, and why I care so deeply for Roy Neary and his close encounters. Effects mean little on their own. They have to serve the story, the character, the whole package. And the effects in BATB are all on story. Not to mention they were done without any CGI, largely because they didn't have a C to G any I. Still, street clothes transform into regal gowns when Beauty is carried through a doorway. And she floats through hallways as if magnetized. And her tears turn to diamonds. It is, after all, a fairy tale. Who knows? Perhaps at the end she'll even fly away.

Cocteau (who had a very long "relationship" with actor Jean Marais who played the Beast) got sick during the filming, and some of the directorial duties went to "technical advisor" Rene Clements. Clements did one of my very favorite foreign films, FORBIDDEN GAMES, now out on a beautiful DVD which I can't recommend enough.

La Belle et la Bête
A poem (Cocteau was a poet) of a film, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is perhaps the ultimate love story. Or maybe not (you'll have to see for yourself). By no means a flawless film (occasional silent film acting, "why's the Beast a beast?"), it is without question a top-drawer entry in the fantasy genre. With its (Midsummer's) dream-like quality, Cocteau washes us in the perfect amount of DaliCentric imagery as he spins the tale. A tale as old as time (actually it's just a few hundred years old). Told a thousand times in a thousand variations (SHREK, KING KONG, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, the TV show, the classic Disney animated version [which owes a ton to this version], and more!). It's even been sung about by Stevie Nicks and punned about by Ashton Kutcher. But have any matched the pure enchantment of the 1946 version by Jean Cocteau? NOPE.

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