Show the world your own Inner me it is certainly very difficult. Demonstrating that we know how to face and overcome grief and move forward despite life leading us to close in on ourselves is even more so. Surrendering to our weaknesses and letting ourselves be carried apathetically by life seems to be the most comfortable method, but it is by managing to ask for help and return to love the world that we can break down that bubble of self-pity that would otherwise devastate us. BEAUTIFUL is the new film by Mamoru Hosoda, a well-known director in the Japanese animation scene thanks to cinematographic masterpieces such as Wolf Children, Summer Wars, The girl who leapt through time and the most recent Mirai (here you find our review). The film was previewed on the occasion of the 16th edition of the Rome Film Festival, in competition for the independent section Alice in the City, with the presence of the director himself who introduced his latest masterpiece, affirming that the desire to make a film like this had been ingrained for a long time. Beautiful it will be distributed in Italian cinemas starting from January 20, 2022 from Koch Media, which has already revealed the synopsis of the story with a magnificent trailer.
- Original title: Ryu to Sobakasuno Hime
- English title: BEAUTIFUL
- Japanese release: July 16, 2021
- Italian release: January 20, 2022
- Genre: romantic, dreamlike, fantasy, slice of life
- Duration: 122 minutes
- Animation studio: Chizu study
- Adapted from: Original work
- Tongue: Japanese, Italian
We reviewed BELLE thanks to the preview screening which took place at the Rome Film Fest.
The story of BELLE by Mamoru Hosoda focuses on the teenager Suzu, an ordinary girl who does not seem to have particular talents except a passion for singing and the gift of one extraordinary voice, which she has cultivated since she was a child, together with her mother. This was until the untimely death of the latter, who died to save a girl trapped in a raging river. From that moment Suzu has closed in on herself, precluding herself from any possibility of happiness and trapping her true inner self. Everything changes when he discovers the existence of U, a virtual world in which to express one’s personality through AS, alter ego with different features than those of real life, but which intend to express their inner expression through the acquisition of biometric data.
Suzu becomes like this Beautiful, who soon, thanks to his powerful and engaging voice, becomes the undisputed idol of U, acquiring millions of followers and becoming the darling of the entire virtual world. One day during a concert, Belle is interrupted by Ryu, the Beast, who appears to be an unbeatable warrior in the world of U who doesn’t use very legitimate ways to win. Belle wonders who that mysterious user is, thus starting a search that will lead her to discover the secrets of the Beast and to continue her search also in the real world.
An important legacy, a breathtaking aesthetic
BEAUTIFUL it is probably one of the most ambitious works of the director of the last years of his career. As stated by himself, the film wants to be a tribute to cinema rather than to the history of The beauty and the Beast, moving towards the re-proposition of elements and filmic metaphors typical not only of the famous Classic disney of 1991, but above all of the 1946 film directed by the French Jean Cocteau And René Clément. From these he certainly takes up the structural basis, which represents the loneliness of a tender-hearted monster and a sweet girl who wants to save him. Some scenes also seem inspired by the film Disney from Gary Trousdale And Kirk Wise, placing itself as a tribute rather than a plagiarism of one of the most important films of the so-called Disney Renaissance. But already from the initial premises and the animated style used, you immediately notice how Mamoru Hosoda wants unhinge from this elegiac conception of cinema, to move towards another filmic form that can be legitimized thanks to its own stylistic and conceptual visionary.
From the aesthetic point of view and the animated sector, in fact, BEAUTIFUL it is a riot of colors, visual elements and juxtapositions of different types of animation: if on the one hand, in fact, the real world is characterized by the simple and meditated style of Hosoda, which we now know well, with photographic shots of rural views of Japan and an apparently contained rhythm, on the contrary the virtual world of U represents perhaps the highest peak of visual synthesis and film studio carried on by the director since his first works. The virtual world of BEAUTIFUL it can not only be conceived as the most varied representation of Hosoda’s dream conception mixed with the virtual and cybernetic world from an aesthetic point of view, but it reaches very high peaks from the point of view of animation.
This can be thought of as achieving graphical levels that have been since Digimon Adventure: Our War Game!, but especially with Summer Wars he intended to propose in his films. Thanks to hybrid animation, it has been possible to create a combination of traditional animation and unimaginable camera movements without the aid of CGI. This can represent in some moments a disturbing factor, especially in the movements of the human characters, which result in some woody and reduced situations, due to the Japanese computer graphics which unfortunately lacks motor photorealism.
Thanks to the development of the Chizu study by Mamoru Hosoda and international collaborations of a certain caliber in the panorama of animation, it was possible to create a truly mammoth film in terms of graphics due to its location of origin. The character designer is Jin Kim (Frozen 2, Big Hero 6, Zootropolis, Oceania), while the virtual world of U was designed by Hosoda and the British architect and designer Eric Wong. Many scenes of the virtual world were created thanks to the collaboration with the Studio Cartoon Saloon from Tomm Moore And Ross Stewart, which are behind animation masterpieces such as Song of the Sea And Wolfwalkers. All this demonstrates how BEAUTIFUL both a ambitious film, before he excelled. And it must be said, however, that from a graphic and aesthetic point of view, Hosoda’s ninth masterpiece is almost completely flawless.
A perhaps too fragmented narrative
Despite the director’s efforts to converge everything towards a scenic and diegetic coherence, the story results in some traits fragmented and confusing. Not so much for the spasmodic alternation between the real and the virtual world, the temporal passages especially at the beginning of the film and the alternation between causes in the world of Suzu and effects in the world of BEAUTIFUL, but mostly for the final resolutions of the plot and for the advancement of the story itself. Suzu’s closure to the world changes and flips when it becomes BEAUTIFUL, demonstrating a self-confidence and a desire to help others that he cannot manifest in real life. This is until the moment when his change begins to transpire even in everyday life.
This upheaval, unfortunately, is really too rapid, becoming dizzying at times: it can certainly be a directorial choice to let the viewer enter a spasmodic loop, but in some places this can have a narrative displacement effect, due to the sometimes extreme speed that the story takes. And this also has repercussions at the narrative level: everything is resolved very hastily, leaving no room for what should be really important then in order to resolve the film’s plot.
This is because the film focuses almost exclusively on the psychology of the protagonist, legacy derived from previous Hosoda films, but which in the long run can disillusion the viewer, who cannot understand who the Beast actually is and what Suzu wants to do in the end: he wants to change even in everyday life or remain anchored to a virtual alter ego ? Summing up, the most exciting and extraordinary component of the narrative is how the disturbances of the protagonist are staged, creating a diegetic sector that is very much taken from previous Hosoda films and which it reaches very high peaks thanks to the spectacular animation used. The latter looks just like the mirror of Suzu’s soul, beautiful, genuine and extraordinary. Certainly the story is not innovative in its premises, not by chance based on films already seen and on a dream-virtual setting so dear to the Japanese director, but which shows ideas deriving from a critique of Japanese society which then have repercussions in the filmic fiction. . BEAUTIFUL it is a current film, socially committed, but which unfortunately fails to develop this socially relevant side in two hours due to an animated vertigo, however spectacular and breathtaking.
- Engaging and spectacular animation
- Virtual world built with sublime virtuosity
- Psychology of the dominant and well constructed protagonist
- Sound catchy and very engaging
- Fragmented and not well developed history
- Secondary characters not too present and characterized in a superficial way
- Narrative acceleration in the second part of the film
A new masterpiece for the master Hosoda
BEAUTIFUL it is certainly an excelled film from an aesthetic point of view, consecrating once again Mamoru Hosoda as one of the greatest masters of contemporary Japanese animation. Thanks to the virtuosity of the machine and to the even more developed and visually rich style, he has succeeded in bringing to completion in an excellent way that desire for dreamlike representation combined with the virtual that he has pursued in all these years thanks above all to masterpieces such as Summer Wars. Unfortunately, the story seems to lack a bit of narrative coherence, especially due to the sudden acceleration it assumes from the middle onwards, failing to fully demonstrate the diegetic dynamics that are created as a result of the consequences of the protagonist’s actions. . In general, however, it must be said that BELLE can be considered to all intents and purposes a very ambitious and powerful film, an intention that Hosoda had been pursuing for many years and that finally seems to have managed to bring it to fruition.