My Thoughts on: Belle (2021)

*note: this review was originally published on Patreon in January

*warning: Minor spoilers about Belle will be discussed below. If you don’t want to know, I highly suggest watching the movie first.

In January I went to see Belle in theaters. This is a movie I’ve wanted to see since last year. In fact, Belle is the reason why I applied to cover the New York Film Festival (though sadly I didn’t get accepted that time).

First, some basic details about the movie before I get into why I absolutely loved it. Belle premiered on July 15, 2021 at the Cannes Film Festival. The film was directed by Mamoru Hosoda whose past films include (but are not limited to): Mirai, Wolf Children, and Summer Wars. The film is loosely based on the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale and, I would somewhat argue, also takes inspiration from Disney’s 1991 adaptation of the fairy tale also.

I’ve rarely found an anime film I didn’t like, but I didn’t expect Belle to completely sweep me off my feet like it did. The animation throughout the film is beautiful, but everything set inside the digital world “U” is drop-dead gorgeous and stunning. I swear the colors pop much more vibrantly during these portions of the story, so much so that when you return to “reality” it feels almost drab in comparison.

And then there’s the story of Belle, my god this story….if I could give all of you one word of warning, do NOT let the fact that this film is loosely (I emphasize LOOSELY) based on Beauty and the Beast temper your expectations about what this film is going to be like. The Beauty and the Beast parallels are only one portion of the overall story, which goes far deeper than I ever dreamed it would. I can’t discuss it in any more detail than that because I don’t want to spoil it, but let’s just say some serious issues are brought up. You should definitely be prepared to cry before the film is over.

Even more than the animation, I think the music of Belle might be the best thing about it. Now, I should note that my first watch through of Belle was with the English dub, so I haven’t heard the original Japanese yet, but the English dub songs are heartbreakingly beautiful. I wasn’t sure how I would react to this film essentially being a musical (Belle the character has several musical numbers throughout the film) but each song is so beautiful I had no trouble getting lost in the music. The songs are just so beautiful, I’ll have to do a soundtrack review for my blog at some point.

One last thought before my conclusions: I am convinced there are parallels between this film and the 1991 Beauty and the Beast film. Look at the interior of the Castle and the dancing sequence and try to tell me the animators did not take inspiration from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. And I don’t mean that in a bad way either, Disney’s adaptation is iconic, it’s flattering that Belle would include an homage or two to that film.

In conclusion, Belle is a masterpiece of animation and could easily be the best film I see this year. I know we’re only just over two weeks into 2022 but I stand by this statement: the bar has been set so high for best film of the year, it’s going to take a while for anything to surpass Belle in my mind.

Let me know what you think about Belle in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Animated Film Reviews

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