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Adélaïde, Belle, Félicie and Ludovic are young adult siblings who once lived in grandeur until their father's merchant ships were lost at sea. The family is now near ruin, but Adélaïde and Félicie nonetheless still squander away the family money on themselves and keeping beautiful, whereas Belle slaves around the house, doting on her father. Ludovic detests his two spoiled sisters, but is protective of Belle, especially with his friend Avenant, a handsome scoundrel who wants to marry Belle. Crossing the forest one dark and stormy evening, the father gets lost and takes refuge in a fantastical castle. Upon leaving, he steals a blossom off a rose bush, which Belle requested. The castle's resident, an angry beast, sentences him to one of two options for the theft of the rose: his own death, or that of one of his daughters. As she feels she is the cause of her father's predicament (despite her sisters asking for far more lavish gifts), Belle sacrifices herself to the beast. Upon arriving ... Written by
This might be my nominee for the most beautiful film ever made. It ranks as one of my absolute favorites.
So many images stick in your head afterwards: the billowing draperies; the beast's flashing eyes when he first appears; the way his ears prick up when a deer moves through the woods-- he's trying to talk to Belle but can't help but be distracted-- one of those perfect moments; the way his hands smoke from the fresh blood when he's returned from the hunt; the living eyes in the carved stone; the hall full of arm/candelabras, turning as Belle passes by; Josette Day (quite an image all by herself); the moment that I can't even describe when she sort of folds into the sheets and vanishes-- so on, so on.
This is, in short, what film can do, when it tries. This was made long before computer graphics and the accompanying revolution in special effects, but if any of our modern directors deployed their resources as imaginatively, or as sensitively, as Cocteau did in the 40s, film today might be worth the paper it's printed on. But they don't and it isn't. Ah well. Get this and watch it; all due praise to Disney, but this is the fairy tale to see.
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