I have been unforgivably bad about keeping up with this season of Hit Me With Your Best Shot at The Film Experience; it’s mostly been the case that my Wednesdays are becoming unexpectedly busy at the last minute and I just haven’t had time to hunt for shots, though in the case of the Psycho week, it was a much more prosaic matter of realising much too late to do anything about it that I have no means of getting Blu-Ray screenshots.
This week, though, I couldn’t put it off any more. Not only is it the series’ first animated film – and we know how I love animation – not only is today’s episode a Disney film – we know how I feel about Disney – and not only is it Beauty and the Beast, one of my favorite of all Disney films; on top of all of that, I didn’t even need to pop in the DVD looking for a shot, because I happen to have already clipped it out for my BatB review.
In this, the first shot where Belle and Beast appear together clearly, we see everything that drives the rest of the movie: the incredible size disparity between the towering, threatening Beast and the diminutive Belle, whose pose here is just about the most saintly, virginal moment in the film; the contrast between his warm, violent red, and her placid, calm, cool blue (a color combination flipped in the iconic “Beauty and the Beast” dance sequence; he’s in a blue suit, she in a bright gold gown – but let us not skip ahead of the moment in question). Yet though the Beast is imposing, he does not dominate the shot; partly because Belle’s colors are carried through the background, partly because nearly all the compositional lines direct us towards her face. It is a very balanced shot between the two characters, in fact, and if either of them is in control visually, it might even be Belle and not the Beast. That sets us up nicely for a film in which her influence slowly, steadily changes his worldview and life.
On a more personal note, this shot, and the two immediately preceding it (one of the Beast emerging into the light, one of Belle ducking into the gloom), were the first time that my almost 10-year-old self sat up and took notice of this thing in the cinema called “lighting”, and how it can impact the mood of a scene – not bad for a movie where the lighting was all done with drawings. But look at that wonderfully soft, heavenly glow, binding the two future lovers together in addition to be gorgeous on its own! What better way to be initiated into the glories of cinephiliac manhood?