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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 »
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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