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A young artist draws a face at a canvas on his easel. Suddenly the mouth on the drawing comes into life and starts talking. The artist tries to wipe it away with his hand, but when he looks... See full summary »
Elizabeth Lee Miller,
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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
I first saw this when about 10 years old, it made little impression on me then, probably because I couldn't hope to appreciate it or understand it all when so young. Next time I was 25 and was bowled over by its imagery, and as I've got older come to appreciate it more and more.
So much for watching it through a child's eyes and accepting the fantasy at face value! At the beginning Cocteau states "Once upon a time...", but really for discerning adult cineastes (and/or poets) to drop their guards and enjoy it for what it was - a magical filmic fantasy. It's uniformly marvellous in all departments, direction, photography, acting, music, design, and Cocteau trotted out all his favourite cinematic tricks - just part of the sequence between Blood of a Poet in '30 and Testament of Orphee in '61. The script was suitably steeped in non sequiteurs and puzzles to add to the heaviness of it all. Er, not that it matters but what happened to Ludovic?
The wonderful dark brooding smoky atmosphere is the most important aspect though - there are few films I've seen with such a powerful cinematic atmosphere, Reinhardt's Midsummer Night's Dream is one and Dead of Night another etc. But the romantic melancholic atmosphere here was something ... incredible. It was only possible with black and white nitrate film stock to capture such gleaming, glistening and time- and place-evoking moving images - it hasn't been quite the same since 1950 with safety film in use.
If you're an adult about to give it your first (let yourself) go, I envy thee! All in all a lovely inconsequential fantasy, make what erudite and informative allegorical allusions you will.
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