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Soundtrack review: Beauty and beast (deluxe edition) (Alan Menken – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Beauty and beast (deluxe edition) (Alan Menken – 2017)

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“Beauty and the Beast” is a 2017 American musical romantic fantasy film directed by Bill Condon from a screenplay written by Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos, and co-produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Mandeville Films. The film is based on Disney’s 1991 animated film of the same name, itself an adaptation of Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s eighteenth-century fairy tale. The film features an ensemble cast that includes Emma Watson and Dan Stevens as the eponymous characters with Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Audra McDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ian McKellen, and Emma Thompson in supporting roles. A young prince, imprisoned in the form of a beast, can be freed only by true love. What may be his only opportunity arrives when he meets Belle, the only human girl to ever visit the castle since it was enchanted. Alan Menken wrote the score, just like for the 1991 movie.

Who doesn’t know this story? The 1991 Disney movie and Celine Dion’s song are legendary but for me, and now my little girl is into Belle and her story. this live action adaptation really was perfect, from the sets to the songs to the visuals, it was a delight to watch in the cinema and the music was a big part of the experience; I remember I saw it soon after “La La Land” and to me there was no comparison between the two as the magic and colour was only present in “Beauty and the beast” for me.

Stories like these and especially their music are all about the magic, the orchestral zest, the passion and the richness of the sonic fabric; I couldn’t imagine a musical score to be minimalistic or restrained. It’s the exact opposite and Alan Menken shows it right from the prologue which is a gorgeous fantasy cue that makes me feel and dream and imagine; nowadays only James Newton Howard writes fairy tale, fantasy music this sparkling, when given the right material. Then comes the playful “Belle meets Gaston” with a shade of the main theme that I know so well and the music takes me right back into that magical land.

Quite often in the case of musicals the score gets lost in all the glitter of the other elements. Sometimes it’s also unfair to just hear the songs and ignore the instrumental texture that’s so important to the story; usually the score doesn’t get its rightful due for a musical and just listening to the sound of “Beauty and the beast”, stripping it of if lyrics and the images makes for a captivating experience as I recapture the mystery of the visit to the castle, of its strange inhabitants, of Belle meeting the beast. I also recognise familiar motifs, playful or fiery, tender or scary, that have stuck with me from seeing both the animation and the movie.

The sparkle and magic of this movie blends into the musical score as well; the elegance of the characters and setting, the fear, the mystery, the restrained love and the sadness are all here in the subtle or more obvious changes of tone from endless dreaming to dramatic and a lot in between. The climax of the movie is presented in a suite of stormy orchestral cues that give me goosebumps all the way and I just can’t stop listening to them.

Full and vivacious orchestral scores like this one are not that often anymore so every time I run into one I am happy and I enjoy the adventure from start to finish. The music is beautiful and has a heart and soul and it’s just full of love; it’s a wonderful score for an equally fairy tale like movie to enjoy with your loved one and a rewarding standalone listening experience both for fans of film or story and for fans of music.

Cue rating: 94 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 52 / 69

Album excellence: 76%

Highlights:
Main Title: Prologue
Belle Meets Gaston
Your Mother
Wolf Chase
The Beast
Madame de Garderobe
There’s a Beast
A Petal Drops
A Bracing Cup of Tea
Wolves Attack Belle
The Library
Maurice Accuses Gaston
Beast Takes a Bath
The Dress
You Must Go to Him
Belle Stops the Wagon
Castle Under Attack
Turret Pursuit
You Came Back
Transformations

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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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