Jean Cocteau

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Beauty And The Beast (1946) Review


Essential
When Jean Cocteau began to direct Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et la bête) in 1946, he was known primarily as a poet and a painter. After the film was released he instantly became one of the finest French directors of his era. As it stands today Beauty and the Beast is still one of the best French films ever made.

The basic story, by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, is well known to most of us: A merchant (Marcel André) steals a rose from an estate owned by a beastly looking character. The Beast (Jean Marais) tells the merchant that he will spare his life if one of his daughters can stand in for him. The merchant reluctantly offers up his daughter Belle (Josette Day). She enters the Beast's world completely afraid of him but in time she grows to pity and then understand him. Ultimately she falls in love with him for his inner beauty rather than his external ugliness. And just about the time she accepts him for his ugly nature, he turns into a prince.

Continue reading: Beauty And The Beast (1946) Review

Les Dames Du Bois De Boulogne Review


Extraordinary
Critics and audiences in 1945 were united about Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne: they hated it. For director Robert Bresson, the antipathetic reception must have seemed like the culmination of substantial frustration and toil, WWII having already forced production to drag on for years. Producer Raoul Ploquin was bankrupted, and Bresson, who had only one other feature on his résumé, had cause to worry about his career.

The problem, according to an essay by François Truffaut included in the lovingly restored Criterion edition of the film, was the film's dialogue, written by Jean Cocteau. Cocteau was one of cinema's true poets (the best of his own films - Blood of a Poet, Orpheus, Beauty and the Beast - are among the most magical ever made). But it seems likely that French audiences, having been living under the heel of the Nazi occupation, were not particularly receptive to such rarified, wildly sophisticated banter. "Why are you leaving?" one character asks another. "I hate the piano," her friend petulantly replies. Another woman greets a gentleman caller thusly: "I cannot receive you, come in." Receiving a gift, this same gentleman remarks that he loves gold; "It's warm, cold, light, dark, incorruptible." And very urbane.

Continue reading: Les Dames Du Bois De Boulogne Review

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