* ½ (out of 4)
When I last visited my relatives in China, I was asked by a group of them to play something on the piano. Since I had not touched a keyboard in several months, I decided to play Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C-sharp Minor, a piece that I thought would sound impressive enough to save face. I hadn’t even gotten halfway through the large, banging chords of the climax before all my relatives started breaking out into exclamations — and by the time I was done, I found myself inundated with compliments on my playing. Never mind that my “interpretation” had no expression, or that I had obviously messed up some notes. To them, loud and big were sure signs of greatness.
On a visceral level, the new live-action version of Beauty and the Beast often feels like it’s trying to do what I did then: dupe its audience into admiration by assailing it with noise. Continue reading