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The story of a gentle-hearted beast in love with a simple and beautiful girl. She is drawn to the repellent but strangely fascinating Beast, who tests her fidelity by giving her a key, telling her that if she doesn't la belle et la bete posterreturn it to him by a specific time, he will die of grief. She is unable to return the key on time, but it is revealed that the Beast is the genuinely handsome one. A simple tale of tragic love that turns into a surreal vision of death, desire, and beauty.

Director: Jean Cocteau
Stars: Jean Marais, Josette Day, Mila Parély
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Language: French
Runtime: 96 min
Rating: PG

Review

By Sonia Cerca

After reviewing last year's Beauty and the Beast, which we can all agree that it was not a good movie, Birgit from BB Creations (check out her blog because it's great) mentioned Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast (French: La Belle et la Bête), and how the new one, although she hadn't seen it yet, would never hold a match to it. And she was right. Not only this version of the Grimm brothers fairytale is better than the Disney live-action, but it's better than the original 1991 Disney film too.

la belle et la beteA half-ruined merchant (Marcel André) goes off one night in the darkness hoping to fetch some goods from his ships before his creditors get them. But he gets lost on his way back and takes shelter in a castle. He picks up a rose and that's when the castle's owner appears, a creature that is half man and half beast (Jean Marais), and tells him that he has a choice of dying or having one of his three daughters come to live in the castle. Belle (Josette Day) who has always been selfless, sacrifices herself for her father and goes to the castle, and soon discovers that there's more than meets the eyes.

Plot-wise, Cocteau's film is far from being perfect. I haven't read de Beaumont's classic fairy tale so I don't know who is to blame, but there are some silly subplots and some characters motivations that aren't explained. To be honest, the whole plot is very illogical and I often found myself rolling my eyes at it. However, that's not really a negative thing. First, this is a fairy tale which is why I don't think it's supposed to make a lot of sense and second, the film opens with a quote from Cocteau saying, "children believe everything they're told, without question", so I guess what Cocteau is trying to do is making us feel like children again, and if you are able to do that, stop thinking and just sit back, you're definitely going to enjoy his film.

la belle et la beteThe romance between Belle and the Beast has never been more charming and touching than this which is very weird considering how thin the characters are. They never get to know each other, and therefore we don't get why Belle is falling for him, but there's something about it that is very beautiful.

Part of the credits surely goes to the actors portraying the lovebirds. Jean Marais does a wonderful job as the Beast, delivering a sensitive, passionate and emotional performance, and he's pretty good as Avenant too, the friend of Belle's brother who asks her in marriage. Josette Day isn't at Marais's level, but she does a pretty good job as Belle.

Despite its many flaws, Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast is still the most magical, enchanting adaptation of the fairy tale I've seen. It was made more than seventy years ago but today's CGI will never hold a match to the visuals of this film. Sure, it all looks very artificial, but it's marvellous --the black and white cinematography, for example, is evocative and adds so much grace to the film. At last, the surreal music fits the story very well.

 

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