Thursday, 13 November 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1946: Jean Marais in Beauty and the Beast

Jean Marais did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the Beast and Avenant in Beauty and the Beast.

Beauty and the Beast is rather wonderful telling of the classic fairy tale.

Jean Marais plays the Beast but he also plays Avenant who's Belle's (Josette Day) boyfriend and technical antagonist. Technically in this version Belle's sisters are more problematic and Avenant is hardly a Gaston like figure. Avenant's more of kinda of a jerk, but he's not really aggressively evil or anything. Marias's role is pretty limited as Avenant, but still does a pretty job of it. I like that he does not portray Avenant as being overly menacing or  anything close to that. Marais instead, rather naturally, showed him to be just a fairly charmless and foolish man. When he invades the Beast's palace at the end of the film Marais's manner is not that of a man who trying to commit some cruel act, but rather that of a fool who is about to make a very serious mistake.

The more interesting side of his work here is as the Beast. There are some technical limitations on Marais as he is only left his eyes and physical movements to make the Beast his own. The first time we see the Beast it is in his more beastly way as Belle's father goes to retrieve a rose and he suddenly appears when the father takes the rose. He quickly sentences the father to a quick death unless he brings one of his daughters for the same death. Marais does not simply make the costuming do the work here. In his first appearance he portrays the Beast as rather imposing figure. Marais accentuates an ever so slight almost hiss as he speaks that is effective in creating the animal of the character, while never making it seem silly either. It's a relatively short scene but he sets up the cold side of the beast in a rather effectively.

Belle is the one to come in order to save her father, but immediately it becomes obvious that the Beast's demands were less due to a vicious nature but rather those of a lonely man. Marais is terrific in his first scene where Beast meets Bell as instead of that commanding presence he brought in the meeting with her father there is a shyness to his physical manner as though the Beast is ashamed of his appearance while being around a beautiful woman. Marais manages to go from being the threatening monster to a rather somber figure quite efficiently. Marais makes the most of his eyes suggests the strong humanity in the beast as you see the sadness and even fear in the eyes of the Beast as he must face his own image. Marais artfully overcomes the restrictions of his costume and does what he should which is to show the beauty in the beast.

The love story is done in a rather low key fashion, and it is not exactly done as this larger than life romance exactly. Instead it is portrayed as more of Belle coming to understand and sympathize with the beast plight which is made believable by Marais's performance. Marais does a great job of still keeping this certain animal quality with the beast, even as his sweet nature becomes obvious. Marais earns the sweetness he slowly reveals within the Beast which he portrays in a very elegant yet quiet fashion. What works so well is how he brings out the tenderness and meekness really in the beast as he seems to only earnestly urge Belle to love if rather than trying any overt romantic gestures. With the sweetness though Marais is quite moving in his depiction of the Beast slowly weakening resolve and the way it seems that the Beast is far more fearful of the beauty than she is of him.

The chemistry he and Day strike is most unusual really yet so affecting in a rather otherworldly fashion. The connection they create though absolutely works. What I like most in this version though is in the pivotal scene where the Beast becomes the Prince. What I love about is Day and Marais don't quite present it as you might think. Instead of instantly embracing each other or anything like that there is instead a certain awkwardness both actors bring to the scene. This awkwardness is a good thing though kinda making it like the beast now as the Prince does need to reintroduce himself again since he has become a man again. Marais brings a certain hesitation as if the Beast is making sure she still loves him even though he's no longer the beast. Both of their performances in this scene allows them to earn their happy ending much more as they take the moment to recognize the transition, and give it the wondrous quality it needs. 

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

What are your ratings and thoughts on Maggie Smith's two Oscar winning performances and Shelley Winters in The Diary of Anne Frank?

Anonymous said...

Also, on Joan Fontaine is Suspicion

Michael Patison said...

I just saw Interstellar. Review on my blog forthcoming this weekend (when I hope to see some combination of Nightcrawler, Fury, Gone Girl, the Keanu Reeves thing (I can't remember what it's called), and other, arthouse (at least where I live) stuff)

RatedRStar said...

I would say, the 1991 Disney version is for familes, this version is for grown ups only =D kids would be scared of this, especially the scene when the beast roars lol.

Anonymous said...

What are your ratings and thoughts on Josette Day?

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

What are everyone's thoughts on Christoph Waltz as (potentially) the next Bond villain

luke higham said...

GDSAO: Well I can say that I'm really excited about it, I hope that he plays some incarnation/variation of Blofeld. Plus he will give at least a great take on whatever character he plays, since he's extremely watchable in everything I've seen him in.

Anonymous said...

GDSAO: I'd say they really couldn't have picked anyone better than him, I'm sure he'll be a damn great villain.

JackiBoyz said...

I think he will be great, but im not sure if he will be the main villain, he might be like Boris from Goldeneye otherwise wouldnt they have just told us he was the main villain straight up like they did with Javier Bardem.

Daniel, last week didn't you say you were seeing The Imitation Game?

Anonymous said...

I've just seen Frank. I really don't know what to make out of it: it's certainly a one-of-a-kind movie. I liked it quite a bit, it's just... really weird. Anyway, I absolutely loved Fassbender's performance, he was amazing. I thought he was hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time, he was terrific (as he always is).

luke higham said...

Anonymous: I'm glad you liked it, Fassbender was the highlight for me as well.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Hey Louis, didn't you mention you saw the first Amazing Spider-Man? If so, why isn't Garfield in the 2012 ranking?

Matt Mustin said...

He probably doesn't remember him.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Suite - 5(She's just a delight in her scenes while bringing the appropriate sort of pathos within the humor of her character's comedic breakdown which she makes funny while never quite selling it short either. She and Caine make their story somewhat worthwhile unlike the other ones found in the film)

Brodie - 5(One of the best "inspirational" teacher performances. She brings such a command and energy to the role and she is absolutely magnetic for every moment of her performance)

Winters - 4.5(She's not the number one standout of the film for me but she would be my number 2 as she still knows how to make herself stand out within the ensemble nature of the film. She does her earthy crudity well, but very naturally brings the heavy emotional quality of her performance without ever becoming too much)

Fontaine - 4.5(I use to more critical of this performance but that was mainly due to the weaknesses of the film. Although this is probably one of Hitchcock's most sloppy films especially with that terrible ending, Fontaine does her best to reign it all in with her performance. Although the film has no idea what's it's doing in terms of the suspicion but Fontaine does and slowly builds it quite effectively with her performance)

Anonymous:

Day - 3.5(I do feel she is somewhat overshadowed by Marais, but I still like her chemistry with him and the grace she brought to the role)

GetDonaldSutherlandOscar:

Well I've yet to dislike a Waltz performance, although I haven't seen all of his performances, so I certainly like the idea. I hope, if he is the villain, he mixes it up a bit though and its not just a variation on Landa.

Robert:

Well I do sometimes forget to update my list, also I technically did watch the movie but while I was tired. I never completely fell asleep but there were some lapses as the film was not exactly holding my attention.