Lengthy ovations have become somewhat of a custom at the Cannes Film Festival, where the average film will receive an applause lasting a minimum of five minutes. Even on this scale, the 14-minute standing ovation director Mamoru Hosoda received for his latest animated film, ‘Belle’, is still especially noteworthy. It surpassed the nine-minute ovation for Wes Anderson’s ‘The French Dispatch’, which also premiered at Cannes this year. (The record-breaking 22 minutes of clapping went to ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ in 2006.)
The full-feature anime 'Belle' is a modern take on the classic fairytale ‘Beauty and the Beast’, in which 17-year-old high school student Suzu has a secret online persona called Belle who has millions of fans in a virtual world called ‘U’. In the real world, Suzu is a shy, closed off character who doesn’t see herself as anything like her avatar. It’s only when Belle encounters a hostile, monster-like character called the Beast in the ‘U-niverse’ that Suzu is able to recognise how powerful she can be without her virtual persona.
It’s not unusual to see Japanese films headline at the prestigious festival. Just three years ago, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s ‘Shoplifters’ took the Palme d’Or grand prize, and this year’s award for the Best Screenplay went to Ryusuke Hamaguchi for his adaptation of ‘Drive My Car’. It is, however, rare to see an anime receive this amount of recognition at a festival with no category dedicated to animated films.
The film is visually stunning, with character designs by former Disney animator Jin Kim (‘Frozen’, ‘Big Hero 6’). More importantly, Hosoda’s resolve to create anime that accurately reflects modern society and empowers its youth provides fresh hope for a new generation of stellar anime films.
Belle is now screening in cinemas across Japan. Read our five-star review here.
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