Beauty and the Beast (La belle et la bete)

Beauty and the Beast

Once upon a time…

This ain’t yo’ daddy’s Disney flick; Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast is much more faithful to the original French fairy tale, both in spirit and in plot (though it’s not a perfect adaptation by any means). I also believe it is the first ever film adaptation of the tale, and as such breaks ground in a number of ways, not the least being how creative and fantastic the film ends up being. Filmmakers in the decades since have cited it as a great influence on their work, and it is consistently on lists of the top films of world cinema. Putting this one up on such a high pedestal made me a little wary, to be honest, but the film itself worked out quite well, not exceeding my expectations but matching them.

You know the story: father is imprisoned at the castle of a monstrous beast, daughter Belle offers to take his place, and slowly Belle and the Beast fall for each other, yadda yadda yadda. I will say, though, that if you go into this expecting roughly the same story as Disney’s animated musical, prepare to be surprised. As I mentioned in the opener, this is much more faithful to the original story than Disney’s version, which might throw a good percentage of you, but once you get past that, there’s quite a fantasy to be explored here. Unfortunately, it was trying to describe it that had me in a quandary. There really wasn’t very much I could find to say about it; indeed, I went through the whole film and only had one note written down by the end of it, that the voice Jean Marais used for the Beast seemed a little high-pitched to me. What this does do, however, is provide a much more adult version of a child-like fantasy experience; indeed, Cocteau starts the film off with a written plea for the audience to suspend their disbelief and basically revert to their childhoods to enjoy the film proper, and that’s really the only way this one really works. But, that’s the key thing: in the right mindset, this film does work, and work well.

I’ll admit, it took me a little while to get used to the style of telling the story that this film employed, but once I did, the whole experience was quite enjoyable. The third act seemed a little rushed for me, and could’ve been expounded upon to make the film somewhere closer to 2 hours, rather than the scant 93 minutes it is, but no film can be perfect; for what the film does do, it does it well. Some may argue that Disney’s film should be on the list, what with being the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture and all, but now that I’ve seen Cocteau’s version, I can see why the editors went the way they did; this took a serious amount of creativity and talent, and it shows exceedingly. Give this a try, even if you’re more of a fan of Disney’s version; there’s still a good deal of merit to be found here.

Arbitrary Rating: 8/10

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2 thoughts on “Beauty and the Beast (La belle et la bete)

  1. This is a good version of the story and the cinematography is amazing. My only problem is the resolution. I am not sure I understood it. Did you get the implications of the transformation of the beast? I have seen it explained as a sexual maturity transformation of Belle, and on a more immediate term you see someone become a beast, what does that say about the Beast himself. And if this is the jackass the beast turns into, I prefer the beast? So, I am a bit confused there. Have you been able to decipher the ending of the film?

    • I’m not really one to delve into the implications and underlying subtexts behind films (unless it’s either bleedingly obvious or there is nothing else about the film in question); I normally take a film at face value and watch it for the entertainment factor. That said, the ending was a little confusing, seeing as the Beast died, and then just up and came back to life as a human when Avenant broke into the pavilion and got shot, and came back looking like Avenant no less. I dunno; something tells me it’s some sort of magic deal where Avenant and the Beast proved they were really each other at heart, and so whatever magic curse had afflicted the Beast decided to pull a switcheroo on them as the “lesson learned” aspect of the fairy tale. I’d probably say that it might’ve had something to do with references to the original fairy tale that weren’t fully transferred over to the film, but Avenant isn’t in the original fairy tale, so who knows what they were really doing.

      You’re not alone in preferring the Beast over his human transformation, though, his admittedly high-pitched voice aside.

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