I’m currently taking a class on French Fairy Tales at my university, and we recently watched this adaptation of the classic story from French director Jean Cocteau. Out of every fairy tale we’ve read in that class, La Belle et la bête is by far my favorite, but even that couldn’t get me too excited for a 1946 black-and-white adaptation of it. However, it didn’t take the film very long to pique my interest, and I soon found myself enraptured by Cocteau’s beautiful, sumptuous imagery.
Every single frame of this film seems to be immaculately composed, as if Cocteau was attempting to take the perfect photograph (and what is a film but a series of quickly changing photographs?). Playing with shadows, light, slow-motion, and a healthy dosage of surrealist imagery, Cocteau creates a film that works for both children and adults. Children will find that the film sticks fairly close with the original tale while adding a Gaston-esque romantic subplot (sorry Disney fans, Gaston himself is wholly a Disney creation), and adults will marvel at the exquisite images on display.
If you interested in checking it out, here’s a fairly new trailer from Criterion that’ll give you a good idea as to what the film is like.
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