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Elizabeth Lee Miller,
A dark twist on the morality tale of forbidden love between beautiful Belle and the feared forest Beast. As villagers are being brutally murdered and the Beast is hunted down as the one ... See full summary »
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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
Jean Marais said that the initial design for the Beast was like a deer, before the more predatory look was decided upon. See more »
As Beauty and the Beast walk in the garden, a comparatively modernly dressed boy in short pants is visible for a few seconds to the top right behind them. See more »
Belle, you mustn't look into my eyes. You needn't fear. You will never see me, except each evening at 7:00, when you will dine, and I will come to the great hall. And never look into my eyes.
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The title and some of the opening credits are written with chalk on a blackboard, and then erased. See more »
For its time, as for today, a unique, emotionally involving adaptation
Jean Cocteau, famous for this work and for his "Orpheus" trilogy (which includes his breakthrough Blood of a Poet), takes the viewer on a journey that he requests at the start to be thought of as a pure fantasy- Once Upon a Time- and, thus, the viewer can expect anything from the inventive, abstract auteur. There is plenty that Cocteau uses from Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont's original story, and makes entirely his own with his brand of enlightening the visual medium- surrealism in a subtler fashion than in his debut.
Most people know the story of Beauty and the Beast, even if one hasn't seen the flashy, fully romanticized Disney flick: an old man, in danger of losing most of his earnings, goes off one night in the darkness and fog to return home. He's detoured onto the property of the Beast (Jean Marais, truly with the skills of a stage actor), a creature who's been in a world of loneliness and conflict with his primal instincts and his human heart. He lets the old man go, as long as he can bring one of his daughters over to take his place.
His family includes three daughters, two of which are spoiled and another, Bela (Josette Day), who is like the servant of the house to them. Bela agrees, and when she arrives at the castle, she finds that it's like nothing she's ever seen before: arms holding candles, statues with eyes, and a mirror that can give the Beast sight of Bela when he wants to. The story unfolds, as some of us can guess, and when Bela returns home to visit her ailing father, her descriptions of the Beast as brutish yet cordial and sad, infuriates Ludivoic (Michael Auclair) who's been pining for Bela's hand in marriage. This leads up to an ending we can assume from the start, and it may be varied on the viewer whether or not it seems rushed or leaving a loophole or other.
Cocteau tells the story, with the obvious psychological comparisons between humans and the Beast(s) in us all, and he does so gracefully, however he has his collaborators in tuning the right mood- Christian Berard, Lucien Carre, and Rene Moulart combine to create some of the most dankly elegant sets/design to any film of its time, mostly in the rooms of the castle, and also in the minor touches of the forests. Their backdrop gives Henri Alekan the motives to add cinematography of a truly evocative timing and grace. He doesn't add or take away shadows in certain scenes to make it more beautiful, he adds them so he can apply the right light to the scene, and the results only make it all the more-so worthwhile.
There was something in me that thought, while viewing Beauty and the Beast, that this version could be suitable for (intelligent) children. Now, writing this commentary, I'm not so sure- for American audiences it is a change of pace from filmmakers using he standard visual effects and computer enhancements, and I've always been of the opinion that kids need a peek at a few dark movies during their adolescence to prepare them for what's coming up. But, it is from a different time, has subtitles, and the actors sometime seem to inhabit the landscape and involvement of an opera over that of a movie. I can definitely pin-point this work, to rap this up, as a highlighted mark in the history of (French) film, with an artist who can take his ideas and transfer them to a past work and make them as palatable, and at the least fascinating to the common film-fan, as possible for the period it was made.
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