Montag, 17. Februar 2014

Berlinale: Boyhood / La belle et la bête (Beauty and the Beast)

It's hard not to admire a movie like "Boyhood". The uniqueness of the idee and the sheer vastness of the undertaking alone demand respect, not to mention how classily it's been realized. Like no other filmmaker Richard Linklater understands time as an essential element of the human experience and plays with it in the most beguiling ways. Even more immediately time-centric than his "Before..."-series, this movie accompanies a boy from the age of 6 to his first day of college using the same group of actors as family members. Watching these people age 12 years in front of our eyes over the course of 165 minutes is in and of itself a surreal, riveting feast. At some point the mortality of the actors bleeds into their characters and documentary/fiction, life/theater become ever more indistinguishable, cementing within the viewer a true emotional attachment along the way. The movie rides on the strength of not just this temporally experimental approach though, but also Linklater's trademark naturalistic filmmaking. The dialogue, especially, written with an eye for details embedded with keen observations about situations or characteristics, makes the interpersonal dynamics instantly come alive. In the end, what stops me from loving this film unreservedly is, besides the lack of a consistently involving, compelling performance from lead actor Ellar Coltrane despite his formidable on-screen charisma, the fact that it's not always without the feeling of an elaborate science project or a family video collection. So while there's no doubt it's grand and in many ways groundbreaking work, it's not necessarily the most cinematic product. That the message of the transience of time is profoundly moving is unquestionable though. People with children would probably be even more eaten up by that great ending.

French director Christophe Gans' retelling of "La belle et la bête (Beauty and the Beast)" suffers at once from the tiredness of an old tale and the tonal imbalance of all the new things they put in there. The whole backstory about the beauty's family members and the addition of those cute but completely out-of-place canine elves take up so much space the critical part of how these two characters separated by everything would fall in love with each other is treated like an afterthought. The direction goes for a more adult-oriented feel but ends up doing only kiddie stuff. In fact, when the teardrop of love bounces off the surface of the magic pond synchronized with the gongs from the belltower to stop all the evil spells, I'm not even sure if kids today would still buy that. Léa Seydoux is a feisty Belle but brings otherwise nothing to the part. Vincent Cassel is given zero to do and pretty much wasted in the role of the beast. Visually the movie probably aims for "The Lord of the Rings" but looks more like Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" or (gulp) Bryan Singer's "Jack the Giant Slayer". There are lavish set-pieces galore but tastefully rendered ones are few and far between. The costumes are sumptuous and more or less the one saving grace of an oft unintentionally funny CGI-fest.

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