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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
The look and decor of the film was influenced by the work of nineteenth-century artist and engraver Gustave Doré, most famous for illustrating a famous nineteenth century French edition of "Don Quixote". Doré's illustrations for that novel are so famous that they continue to be reprinted even today. See more »
Boom visible at the top of the picture during the entire scene when Ludovic and Avenant first approach Diane's pavilion. See more »
Get your hands off her! You want a black eye?
It's all right, Ludovic. He was asking me to marry him.
What did you say?
Your sister doesn't want me!
Bravo, Belle. I'm a scoundrel, and proud of it, but I won't stand to see you marry one.
Consider yourself warned. Now clear out, you hoodlum!
[Avenant punches Ludovic in the face]
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The title and some of the opening credits are written with chalk on a blackboard, and then erased. See more »
The verbal prologue bugged me. It says, in effect: children listen to fairytales and believe all sorts of fantastic things, about magic and flying carpets and the like; please be a child again for the next little while. (To highlight the this-is-for-children aspect, I suppose, the opening credits are written out by hand on a blackboard while we watch.) The film really cheats here, no question about it. The right to have the audience "believe" (so to speak) in fantastic events, or realistic events, has to be earned. Cocteau can't just command it. It's as if he's saying, "I admit my film won't really grip you as it stands, so pretend you're about eight years old, and see if that works."
I suppose it's already clear that it didn't have the intended effect on me. In my defence I plead that the whole film was half-baked. (I don't speak French. Maybe a lot was lost when the dialogue was poorly translated into subtitles. Personally I doubt it.) Neither the beauty nor the beast was a discernible character. Cocteau doesn't appear to have a very clear idea of what his story is about, and directs as if he expected his prologue ("Be enchanted, I tell you!") to do all the work. The final scene is at once abrupt and pointlessly bizarre. Some of the visual effects were nice enough, but they smell too strongly of artifice. When characters stepped out of doors I half expected to see the outside of a French film studio. There is, however, a rather pleasing score by George Auric.
Had this been made in Hollywood by no-one in particular it would be forgotten by now.
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