Jean Cocteau’s 1946 version of Beauty and the Beast

La_Belle_et_la_Bête_film Jean Cocteau’s popular live action version of La Belle et la Bete is a captivating film. Faithful to the early versions of the classic French story, viewers only familiar with Disney’s animated classic Beauty and the Beast will be surprised by its storyline.

I’ll set up the story: Belle’s once wealthy family have lived in poverty since her merchant father’s ships were lost at sea. Though beloved by her father and scoundrel brother, Belle is mistreated by her two sisters and treated like a servant. Her father gets lost in the woods after returning from a business trip and spends the night at an enchanted castle. He sees no one and when leaving, takes a rose from the garden. A beast appears and condemns him to death for stealing the rose. The father begs for mercy, and the beast tells him to bring a daughter to take his place. The father returns home, intent on telling his story and returning, but Belle, against the wish of her father, brother, and brother’s smitten friend, takes her father’s place.

To prevent spoilers, I’ll leave you to discover the rest of the story.

Note: The movie is in French. I watched a version with subtitles.

My opinion: The expressions are theatrical, so it felt a trifle overplayed in parts (that’s mainly because I wasn’t expecting it to be theatrical in style). The beginning was slow, mostly focusing on Belle’s selfish sisters proving their shrewishness by yelling at servants and calling them drunkards. The special effects were somewhat laughable: arms coming out of wall to hold candles or up from the table to hold a candle and pour wine, and there was an overuse of smoke. However, the human arms for candle holders made an interesting contrast to the beast. The Beast’s costume was well done, as were all the costumes. The Beast’s voice reminded me of a stereotypical French- accented villain. I’m fairly familiar with the early versions, but there was a surprise twist at the end of this that was rather intriguing.

Conclusion: I enjoyed it and would recommend it.

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