Beauty and the Beast (1946)

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 BĂȘte), 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. 

A 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.

The 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.

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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.

12 comments :

  1. I hated the live action BATB so much that I really want to see this one so I can get the taste of that out of my mouth. lol

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    1. I didn't hated that one but I get the feeling.

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  2. OH wow! Thank you for such a kind shout out...that is very sweet:) I'm glad you like this film because I find it very enchanting and one of the best films made. I love it when she comes into the castle and floats through it. I have read the fairy tale and it is pretty close to the story. One is not supposed to question but just lay back and enjoy. It is quite an amazing film considering it was made during the Nazi occupation and right after so there was not a lot one could use for film making. I'm glad you enjoyed this film.

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    1. You're welcome! That was the least I would do, you always suggest such great films!

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  3. This is one of the greatest fairy tale movies of all time. The production design on that castle is just stunning and it just FEELS like a fairy tale come to life in a way the more self-conscious Disney live action films don't. This is just so beautiful. I don't know how Jean Marais is able to emote through all that makeup, but he does.

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    1. I know right! He is so good as the Beast.

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  4. I saw this film a few years ago and.... it wasn't just better than I thought but man... it really knocked me on my ass as I just fell in love with it and I hope to see more films by Jean Cocteau. I have no interest in seeing the remake from last year after reading Brittani's notorious review.

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    1. And yet there are people who prefer that awful live-action over this.

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    2. Seriously? Where I can find them so I can slap them upside the head for being a bunch of fucking morons?

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    3. I'm not sure, I read those comments on the internet. I'm sure they need to have their brain fixed though.

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  5. You should try and watch "Panna a netvor". It's probably my favorite "Beauty and the Beast" adaptation. It's in Czech but you can easily find the whole movie on Youtube with English subtitles :)

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    1. I doubt I'd enjoy it more than this one, but I'll give it a chance.

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