La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast)
(1946) 93 mins
Director: Jean Cocteau
Writers: Jean Cocteau, from the fairytale by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont
Cinematography: Henri Alekan
Production Design: Christian Bérard, Lucien Carré
Music: Georges Auric
We all know the story: Returning home through the woods, Belle’s father leaves the path in search of a rose to give to his daughter and unwittingly enters the Beast’s magical domain. The next morning, he comes face to face with the fearsome Beast (Jean Marais), who will only let him leave if he promises tto send one of his daughters to the chateau. The two ugly sisters refuse the proposition, whereas the virtuous, obedient Belle (Josette Day) consents.
“At the start of the film, an on-screen preamble written in Cocteau’s own hand invites us to adopt an attitude of childlike credulity to the film that we are about to see. But in fact there’s nothing naïve about his treatment of the classic fairytale; this is a stylised and highly sophisticated work, at once dream-like and mockingly humorous in its approach to the story.” Philip Kemp
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Showings of this film are part of our Cinematheque season which is supported by the British Film Institute.
“La Belle et la Bête will always be best remembered for the magical fairytale décor of the Beast’s castle, with its disembodied arms bearing candelabra or pouring wine, its watchful-eyed caryatids and its haunted, tormented shadows, a labyrinth where white linen drapes billow ghostlike in long dark corridors and the rooms are troubled by half-heard voices and distant cries.” Philip Kemp
“Studied or not for philosophy, this is a sensuously fascinating film, a fanciful poem in movement given full articulation on the screen.” The New York Times original review
“Cocteau’s film is antic and playful, but there is real pain (and genuine eroticism) behind its flamboyant façade. La Belle et la Bête is full of wonder and mystery. It’s cinema’s ultimate love story, dressed up as a monster.” The Observer