Beauty And The Beast (1946) Movie Review

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.

It's a fairy tale indeed! But the theme of looking both fear and death in the face and transforming it into something positive comes through pretty clearly. Especially in the end when the film turns all the longings and desires of both Belle and the Beast into reality.

The film has a slow start developing the family that surrounds Belle. We see that her sisters are the evil greedy types who are jealous of Belle's good looks. And we know that they will get their comeuppance in good time.

But once Belle enters the Beast's castle, the film takes on a magical form. One of the main reasons is because of the sheer magnificent look of the film. With the help of fine cinematographer Henri Alekan, who gives the film brilliant images that evoke everything from a Vermeer-like quality to a luminous black & white look, and assistant director Rene Clement, who was a well-known director himself, Cocteau creates one of the most enchanting films of all time.

Cocteau was attempting to approximate the spirit of the tale by conjuring cinematic tricks. But he wasn't interested in special effects that you add in the editing room. He wanted to use tricks that could be caught on camera through superimposition, slow motion, and running the film backwards for dreamlike effect. He also -- with the great production help of Christian Bérard, costume design by Marcel Escoffier, and set design by Rene Moulaert -- created an amazing set, which included candle chandeliers held by arms that protrude from the walls and fireplaces with living face statues that have eyes that follow the occupants around. The score by Georges Auric adds another dimension in loveliness to the film. And it sounds good on the DVD. But one reason the Criterion Collection DVD is so special is that it includes an additional audio track of the opera written by Phillip Glass in 1995, which you can run concurrently with the movie. There are two remarkable things about this opera; one is the fairly precise way that the voices synch up with the actor's lip movements and the other is the way that it enhances the ambiance as well as brings a fresh aspect to the film. I've seen the film half a dozen times and with this new score I noticed things I had never seen before.

One of the best extras on the DVD is a 25 minute documentary Screening at the Majestic, which was made in 1995 and visits the shooting locations for the film and features interviews with DP Henri Alekan and actors Jean Marais and Mila Parely -- who played one of Belle's spiteful sisters.

The DVD, which is the first title that Criterion has re-released, also includes two audio commentary tracks; one by film historian Arthur Knight and the other by writer, cultural historian Christopher Frayling. Both tracks give different views on the making of the film and its significance to film history. There is also the original theatrical trailer that featured an audio track by Cocteau.

Cast & Crew

Director :

Producer : André Paulvé

Starring : , , Mila Parély, , , , Marcel André

Comments

Beauty And The Beast (1946) Rating

" Essential "

Rating: NR, 1946

Advertisement

Editors Recommendations

Dark Drama 'The Riot Club' Is Never Dull, But Lacks Bite

The Riot Club, formerly known as 'Posh' and based on Laura Wade's 2010 play...

Dark Drama 'The Riot Club' Is Never Dull, But Lacks Bite

Aphex Twin - Syro Album Review

If you're even remotely into electronic music, then you are more than likely to know who Aphex Twin is. After becoming...

Aphex Twin - Syro Album Review

Game of Thrones' Maisie Williams Set for Channel 4 'Cyber Bullying' Drama

Maisie Williams, best known for playing Arya Stark in HBO's Game of Thrones...

Game of Thrones' Maisie Williams Set for Channel 4 'Cyber Bullying' Drama

Reaper - Trailer

The Reaper (Mike Michaels) was formerly an ordained minister before embarking on a rampant killing spree with...

Reaper Trailer

Adam Duritz Of Counting Crows Talks Of Liberation, Fun And Childhood Fascinations

Counting Crows have delighted us with their first album release since...

Adam Duritz Of Counting Crows Talks Of Liberation, Fun And Childhood Fascinations

Ringo Deathstarr - Live Review

The Sabotage Club in Lisboa has all the trappings of the typical toilet circuit venue, if you were to disregard a decade...

Ringo Deathstarr supported by The Telescopes, NAAM,  11th September 2014, Lisboa Sabotage Club Live Review

'X-Men: Deadpool' Set For 2016, Ryan Reynolds Likely to Star

X-Men: Deadpool, a project that has long been in development for Twentieth...

'X-Men: Deadpool' Set For 2016, Ryan Reynolds Likely to Star

Ben Whishaw Lands Starring Role in BBC Thriller 'London Spy'

Ben Whishaw, the British actor who played Q in Skyfall and who portray the...

Ben Whishaw Lands Starring Role in BBC Thriller 'London Spy'

Dolly Parton - Blue Smoke: The Best of Dolly Parton Album Review

Dolly Parton is an international treasure - and a rare breed, at that. She is a...

Dolly Parton - Blue Smoke: The Best of Dolly Parton Album Review
Advertisement