Beauty and the Beast Screen 16 articles

Beauty and the Beast

1946

Beauty and the Beast Poster
  • Cocteau's earlier The Blood of a Poet(1930) was surrealism for surrealism's sake, but B&B grounds its fantastical visual style with a linear romance narrative. What's both appealing and problematic is its visual opulence. Full of baroque interiors, elegant costumes, and overwrought jewelry (even tears turn to diamonds), the film is all surface, and undermines its own don't-trust-a-pretty-face and anti-greed themes at every turn.

  • It is magical and personal and rejects the mechanical for the wonders of the imaginative, the handmade, and it just leaves me totally cold.

  • Stilted and silly when set in the real world, it springs to eerie life whenever the action shifts to the Beast's enchanted castle, in which human arms jut from the foyer walls to light Belle's way with candelabra, and bas-relief faces swivel to follow her unsteady progress. (The folks who designed Disneyland's Haunted Mansion were clearly inspired by this picture.)

  • A sublime, sumptuous film directed by Jean Cocteau with the help of Rene Clement (1946). Cocteau re-creates the classic story of the beauty who gives herself to the beast to save her father, and whose growing love eventually transforms him into a handsome prince, with a brilliant blend of decor (sets by Christian Berard), human forms (superb makeup by Arakelian), and visual effects (dreamlike photography by Henri Alekan).

  • Cocteau reaches a new level of artistic fusion, combining mythical narrative, visual poetry, cinematic trickery and even his own child-like writing in the credit sequence. The episodic, self-consciously experimental style of Le Sang d’un poète is left far behind. What Cocteau provides instead is a simple adaptation, strikingly visualised.

  • The most ambitious and talented fabulist since E. T. A. Hoffmann, Cocteau not only produced a vast and diverse corpus of poems, drawings, plays, sculptures, novels, and libretti, he also wrote and directed a small but astonishing group of films. Beauty and the Beast is the best of his five feature films and the greatest fable of his entire oeuvre—a vulnerable-beast-in-love tale to end all others, from King Kong to Edward Scissorhands.

  • [Cocteau] allows the pure force of the narrative to assert itself, as if he were content for once to figure as a kind of medieval artisan. An artisan among artisans: the film is virtually a showcase for the best in French production design, music, cinematography, and costuming. Yet the net effect is, if anything, austere rather than lush, a tribute to Cocteau’s unerring sense that here the tale, with its mysterious imperatives, is everything.

  • Our attention is directed towards his eyes from the Beast’s first appearance. A superimposed glow exudes menace and ferociousness before disappearing a few frames later, leaving before revealing the true light source, the fire of humanity hidden beneath fur, fangs, and a mane. The make-up is modest, though the wiggling ears are particularly adorable.

  • When the trapped Prince appears, after shedding his monstrous exterior, there is a strange sense of disappointment and loss, something that the film, beautifully, does not shy away from. The Beast, as played by Jean Marais, is such a visceral presence, so fearsome in aspect and yet so deeply emotional, that to see him as just a regular human (also played by Jean Marais) is upsetting. Something has been born, something has died.

  • If the first act of La Belle et la Bête showcases familial insecurity in all its ferociousness, the second part, which actually involves a monster, is amazingly peaceful, full of surrealist cinema tricks and haunting mise-en-scene... Herein lies Cocteau’s core dichotomy, the idea that both monstrosity and beauty can be concealed skillfully from the naïve eye, but will eventually spill out like a cup brimming with too much water.

  • Airy and light albeit grave to the touch, like all the best poets work best in contradiction, in terms set against themselves, as models not of classic irony (not simply, not simple) but of simply not simple a system of strings set to motions in the round, plucking life as a choir might vibrate chords to sing out about and of and for life for the sake of life, alive to its sides of a cone like cycle selling cells playing bait and switch to the end of time in clouds.

  • The uncanny aspect of all this excess — the film can sometimes seem "almost unbearable in its ethereal gorgeousness," as Geoffrey O'Brien wrote — tends toward the manner of a dream, as if at any moment Belle might snap out of it. Well, beauty is fragile. Magic is rare. And it's precisely the blessing of the cinema that it affords us such opportunities to indulge in fantasy.

  • Characters speak in a poetic, witty cadence while framed in striking compositions (visual and musical) that serve to both celebrate and undermine the spectacle in this, perhaps the most accomplished postwar French film to precede and influence the New Wave. Indeed, the late Jacques Rivette inherited Cocteau’s sense of playfulness and tragic irony, as well as some of the more primal elements of his aesthetics, if not his budgets or visual splendor.

  • A testament to the power of love and creativity over darkness, “Beauty and the Beast” offers riches to adults as well as children, though Cocteau asked audiences to approach it with the simple faith of a child. In his magical telling of an ancient tale, smoke and mirrors reveal rather than hide the truth.

  • Jean Cocteau’s 1946 film version is visually lustrous and richly marked by stunning costumes, elaborate set design, and imaginative use of practical effects.

  • Next month Disney will release their live action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. It is sure to be sumptuous and well-appointed and all that, but it’s unlikely to approach the carnal magic of Jean Cocteau’s 1946 version, ideal viewing for this Valentine’s Day... Cocteau had to rely on his crew of artisans to patch up mistakes, find workarounds for shortages and fabricate the fantastic illusions of Beast’s castle out of what was left over. The film is a triumph of ingenuity and craft.

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