Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Review: La Belle et la Bete (1946)

Directed by Jean Cocteau
Produced by Andre Paulve
Written by Jean Cocteau
Cinematography by Henri Alekan
Starring Josette Day, Jean Marais, Mila Parely, Nane Germon, Michel Auclair, Marcel Andre
Music by Georges Auric

Adapted from the French fairy tale of the same name, La Belle et la Bete is a fantasy film featuring an extremely theatrical set and acting that at times seems laughable. However it is a genuinely enchanting tale in which the viewer is invited to put aside preconceptions and enjoy the magic as a child would. The characters of La Bete, The Prince, and Avenant are all played by Jean Marais, which enables a quirky if predictable ending.
Fig 1

Fig 2
The set designs and cinematography were intended to evoke the woodcuts of Gustav Dore and, in the farmhouse scenes, the paintings of Jan Vermeer [1]. 

Phillip French, writing for the Observer, suggests that it's a profound allegorical interpretation of a wounded France recovering its honour after the Nazi occupation. Whilst this seems absurd, it was photographed by Henri Alekan, who the same year shot the harshly realistic La Bataille Du Rail, a tribute to the French railwaymen's heroic resistance to the Germans.
Fig 3

Cocteau has taken a somewhat morose idea from another fairy tale, La Chatte Blanche by Marie-Cathérine d'Aulnoy, where the servants have been reduced to arms and hands or faces, making the castle totally cheerless.
Fig 4
Derek Malcom (1999) suggests that this is Jean Cocteaus most perfect film because it speaks to so wide an audience with its intensity of vision and the emotions that it inspires. He adds that “ it's all the better for not relying on astonishing special effects but on the private thoughts of the watcher.”
The viewer goes with Belle on a journey from innocence, watching her become colder and more calculating, and finally falling in love.

 Information on Gustave Dore
accessed on 27/09/2011
Phillip French (2008), The Observer 
accessed on 27/09/2011 
Derek Malcom (1999)
Accessed on 27/09/2011

fig 1 - Belle with la Bete
fig 2 - woodcut by Gustave Dore
fig3 - servant arms
 fig 4 - Belle

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