Belle Review | Movie – Empire


Troubled teenager Suzu (Nakamura) struggles to express herself among her peers and embraces the online virtual reality of “U”. There, she becomes ‘Bell’, pop star and immediate viral sensation. One day, she meets the mysterious “Beast” and finds herself drawn to this reclusive outcast.

Although centered on a teenage girl seemingly content to blend in with her peers, Beautiful itself does not lack ambition. It is both a tribute to The beauty and the Beastand a souvenir of its creator’s greatest hits (Wolf children, The boy and the beast, Mirai); a large-scale fantasy as well as small-town coming-of-age drama, reflecting the intertwining of teenage anxiety and social media; an innovative piece of CG animation that blends with a more traditionally hand-drawn style. But it’s never overwhelming, as director Mamoru Hosoda arranges all those moving parts into a precise and thrilling symphony.

Through the story of its protagonist Suzu (Kaho Nakamura), Hosoda remixes The beauty and the Beast not only as a reflection on how teenagers can escape in internet communities, but also on the larger topic of parenting and the pain that results when they are away. Taking on the character of “Bell”, Suzu, who has a strained relationship with her father (Kōji Yakusho), becomes something halfway between a V-tuber (an online artist who uses an avatar) and a pop star, her singing turning her into a viral sensation. Where other films might warn of the dangers of this, Beautiful instead takes a humanistic view of the internet, viewing it as a means by which isolated and misunderstood souls connect. Not that the film ignores the risks – as Suzu meets “The Beast” (Takeru Satoh), he engages in the practice of doxxing (a cyber attack that reveals a user’s true identity) and how to control it. businesses in online spaces corrupts communities.

With its intense story, spectacular animation, and catchy soundtrack, there’s an almost dizzying amount going on.

As with most of Hosoda’s work, Beautiful constantly has one foot in and one out of reality, the setting split between the real and digital worlds, characters animated with traditional 2D in the former and CGI in the latter. In 2D, they appear more subdued and naturalistic, but very often offer disproportionate caricatural reactions. In 3D, the characters take on a fairy tale appearance, while the world of “U” itself appears as somewhere between a sprawling cityscape, a circuit board, and a harp. There’s a constant back and forth everywhere, between 2D and 3D animation, the inner self and the outer self, all of which ripples through how the online space essentially doubles us, providing the ability to create a new image. This conceptual approach to animation makes it possible to pass from one world to another in complete transparency.

With its intense story, spectacular animation, and catchy soundtrack, there’s an almost dizzying amount going on. But Hosoda keeps it all on a level playing field, using recurring visual patterns, precise pacing, and calmer vignettes and slices of real-world life as breathing space. It sometimes stumbles: While the nature of Bell and The Beast’s relationship aligns perfectly with Hosoda’s sensibilities on paper, the reveal of the latter’s identity seems awkwardly executed. Yet the conclusion it leads to is powerful, balancing its lavish fantasy imagery with moments of silent observation and moving intimacy.

Belle is an uplifting transformation of a classic tale, updating a story of alienation into something deeply resonant with our digital way of life. Although it lacks a few notes in its final act, it is an exhilarating sensory experience, with great emotional depth.


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