Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast - Released September 1946. Directed by Jean Cocteau

The faery tale is made into a French fantasy family drama with love earned, spurned, and wasted (in the case of the horrid sisters which seek to undermine Belle at every move, or the wastrel brother which lacks their cruelty, but on the other hand drags the whole family into poverty by a combination of sloth and foolish interactions with moneylenders).

Above all this (sometimes funny) filigree about family, though, is the main story, which is the transformative relationship between the hostage (Belle) and her keeper (Beast) in a castle full of darkness and strange servants (walls populated with arms, mantels with faces that have eyes which move, and much more).

It is not long after Belle arrives (she is the substitute prisoner for her father who mistakenly pilfered a single rose from the Beast's garden. This is a death penalty offense) that soon the Beast is being commanded by Belle in small ways, and step-by-step he is changed. But there is still risk and sacrifice involved, which complicates the simple redemption of the Beast from a wrathful and angry slayer of animals who, ironically, by his later admission, is an animal that was once a man.

Creative imagery and dream-like sections, along with the multi-layered dialogue which makes for both a children's tale and an adult one, make this film unique and much more than any of the cartoon versions that have been made over the decades. It is a gorgeous movie with inventive cinematography and special effects.

Original Page July 2016

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