‘La Belle et la Bête’ (Cocteau, Jean. 1946.)

This entry is part 2 of 7 in the series 'Essential Art House'

Andy’s apparently been “itching to dive into” the Essential Art House: 50 Years of Janus Films box set we won during during the Grand Illusion‘s fundraiser back in september.  This was his 1st choice because we missed this movie when the GI actually showed it.

This is your basic Beauty and the Beast tale, with a cursed prince transformed into a beast and the beautiful, virtuous woman forced to live with him who eventually falls in love with him and releases him from his curse.

This cinematic version is fascinating because the parts that take place in the Beast’s castle are so incredibly stylized, more reminiscent of a stage play than anything.  This is an interesting divide that helps to emphasize how not-of-this-world the Beast’s castle is.

Characters’s gestures and movements, in the Beast’s world, are broad and theatrical.  When Belle enters the Beast’s castle she’s wearing (a glorious flowing) cape that billows around dramatically such that at one point i said to Andy, “Okay, now really, she must have someone in that cape with her making it move like that.”

The sets of the town and the merchant’s house are realistic, but the Beast’s castle is a very pared-down and minimalist set — at one point the walls of Belle’s room seem to simply vanish, giving the impression she’s staying in a garden.  The invisible servants are represented by, for example, disembodied arms sticking out of the walls and holding candelabras, which is very effective for both evoking a sense of magic and deep creepiness.

I was a little surprised by the ending, because it was not at all clear that Beast’s curse was lifted because of Belle’s love or because Ludovic and Avenant succeeded, at that moment, in breaking into Diana’s Pavilion whereupon Avenant was shot by Diana’s arrow.

And then the Beast and Beauty flew away into the sky to live happily ever after, which caused Andy to say, “And just like ‘Labyrinth,’ it’s really all about sex.”

In conclusion:  I want Belle’s cape.

Series Navigationour geis: film box sets‘The 39 Steps’ (Hitchcock, Alfred. 1935.)

4 thoughts on “‘La Belle et la Bête’ (Cocteau, Jean. 1946.)”

  1. I’ve been meaning to see this for ages…both because Cocteau is Cocteau and because of the gorgeous song Stevie Nicks wrote that was inspired by it. I can see from your review why she would have done, it’s her style.

      1. Hmm, La Belle is really the big one, but the film literature goes on a lot about Les Parents terribles and the methods of stage-to-screen adaptation, iirc. (I haven’t seen it, though. I’m sort of the worst film student ever.)

        1. Cool, thanks! Looks like the local video store has it in VHS, so i guess i’ll see if our VCR still works.

          I sometimes feel like i must be the worst cinema employee ever. Customers who try to engage me in cinema discussions often give me odd looks when i comment that, no, i haven’t see X, Y, or Z movie they’re talking about. So you are not alone in the Bad Cinephiles club. ;)

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