La Belle et la Bête Film Review
In 1946 Jean Cocteau made the first film adaptation of the story beauty and the beast, this is a french picture that we viewed with english subtitles, it is a monochromatic film as the ability to incorporate colour to film had yet to be incorporated into film.
"The dialogue, in French, is spare and simple, with the story largely told in pantomime, and the music of Georges Auric accompanies the dreamy, fitful moods. The settings are likewise expressive, many of the exteriors having been filmed for rare architectural vignettes at Raray, one of the most beautiful palaces and parks in all France. And the costumes, too, by Christian Berard and Escoffier, are exquisite affairs, glittering and imaginative, lacking only the glow of color, as we say." (Parker, 2014)
The plot is the classic story that we all know already, where the main protagonist Belle (Beauty) happens across the Beast, the reasoning in this adaptation being that her father, in search of a man with wealth to marry one of his daughters too, while in the Beast’s castle picks a rose from his garden, which the beast takes as a personal attack against his pride thus vows to kill the man. While bargaining for his life, the Beast offers him a preposition, that if he brings him one of his daughters as trade for the rose his picked, then he would let him live, so he is given a deadline to bring him a daughter and a horse (named Magnificent) to get there and back with.
So after returning, but not being able to give up one of his daughters for his own life, he awaits for the deadline to end and with it the beast to take his life, at which point Belle, being unable to see this happen to her father while she can do something to prevent it, heads out on Magnificent to the Beast’s castle to give herself in to save his life. Once she arrives she is captured by the Beast and is told she cannot leave his castle’s grounds and that she must live there with him from now on. Eventually after spending an extended period of time under the beast supervision he starts to become infatuated over Belle and eventually begins to show his true feelings towards her, which are not returned for a good portion of the film, but eventually Belle warms up to him. But this only really happens after the Beast allows Belle to leave on special permission for a limited time to go and see her father who appears to be gravely Ill, which in return she promises her upmost loyalty to the beast once she comes back.
"The tug of love between the monster and the maiden is never overplayed, but neither does the film shackle this beast – he remains unpredictable and threatening throughout. ‘La Belle et la Bête’ has been accused of valueing style over substance, but place the film in historical context (alongside, say, ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, both released the same year) and its true intent is revealed: in the wake of unimaginable horror, this kind of fantasy is still achievable, and perhaps more important than ever." (Huddleston, 2013)
After visiting her father using the a magical teleportation glove the beast gives to Belle, where her father soon makes a miraculous recovery once he see’s Belle has returned to still alive, but delays her return for as long as possible and remains at her old home, the Beast begins to die for some reason that can only be reduced to heart break and sends beauty a mirror, that seems to serve the purpose of showing someones true self, and also when beauty looks into it the Beast is shown dying in his garden, at which point Belle hastily returns to him. At the same time a man named Avenant, who is a friend of Belle’s brother Ludvic and an admirer of Belle, after finding out from Ludvic of the location of the Beast’s treasures, sets out with Ludvic to claim the treasure and kill the beast in one fell swoop.
After trying to console the beast and telling him of her feelings, the Beast eventually succumbs to his symptoms and dies next to beauty, this happening while Avenant and Ludvic are attempting to break into the Beast’s treasure room, where while lowing Avenant through a glass roof into the room, he is immediately killed by a magical statue that acts as a form of security system for the beast, that shoots Avenant with an arrow, killing him. At this point, the Beast an Avenant seem to trade bodies, the Beast it brought back to life in a human body greatly resembling Avenant and the latter dies in the Beast’s body. Beauty at first seems fazed by his transformation but immediately gets over it and proclaims her love for the Beast again. She is then promised by him that they will return to his kingdom, where they proceed to fly into the air together for whatever reason and live happily ever after.
The reason that we viewed this film, and why it is considered a piece of cinematic history is due to it having some of the greater scenes of set design in early cinema, when we enter the Beasts castle we are shown a series of surrealist architecture, paintings and overall atmosphere of the rooms, for example everything appears to be automated, which statues appearing to be alive, pictures of drink being served by actual hands that come out the table, and doors appearing to open and close themselves.
"The Beast's dwelling is one of the strangest ever put on film--Xanadu crossed with Dali. Its entrance hall is lined with candelabra held by living human arms that extend from the walls. The statues are alive, and their eyes follow the progress of the characters (are they captives of the Beast, imprisoned by spells?). The gates and doors open themselves. As Belle first enters the Beast's domain, she seems to run dreamily a few feet above the floor. Later, her feet do not move at all, but she glides, as if drawn by a magnetic force. (This effect has been borrowed by Spike Lee.) " (Elbert, 1999)
This was a rather large step in prop design and would go on to influence the anthropomorphised utensils and furniture in the Disney 1991 animated adaptation of the film that would let the story be known to a larger degree of people throughout the world and younger audiences.
Alan Parker : http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/reviews/la-belle-et-la-bete-film-review-cocteaus-forties-fantasy-is-still-a-thing-of-real-beauty-9035506.html
Tom Huddleston : http://www.timeout.com/london/film/la-belle-et-la-bete-1
Roger Elbert : http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-beauty-and-the-beast-1946
Fig. 1 : http://cineclap.free.fr/?film=la-belle-et-la-bete-1946&page=affiche-15
Fig. 2 : http://phatpinkpanda.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/la-belle-et-la-bete-1946.html
Fig. 3 : http://meg-leslie.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/jean-cocteaus-la-belle-et-la-bete-1946.html