La Belle et La Bete
Directed and Written by Jean Cocteau based on the story by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont
I had been wondering how I’d track down a copy of this old film and then they listed a newly restored copy in the film festival so I booked myself a ticket! It’s an amazing Gothic film, very over the top by today’s standards but it had a beautiful dreamy quality to it which I really enjoyed. Jean Marais played the Beast and the human character fighting for Beauty’s attentions Avenant, and Josette Day played Beauty with a lot of grace.
There’s a lot of hand waving in the plot – many things explained away as magic, and some confusing stuff where the beast’s hands and clothes smoked sometimes… but it didn’t in any way impact the enjoyment of it. Like the title card asked us to do, I adopted the ‘artlessness’ of a child. More like, I went back a bit to childhood and I enjoyed the dreaminess and the fairy tale-ness. I remembered about the shape of the story which is so familiar and relaxed into the film, I guess you could say.
The special effects of the enchanted castle were really good – the arms holding candleabras and the doors opening automatically. The moving statues, it was all very beautiful. The make up to make the actor into the Beast was very cool too, he looked so felted and fuzzy. I especially enjoyed the scene where his wee round bear ears pricked up and moved around because there was a deer in the area. Super adorable!
The film, as I imagine most French Gothic Romantic stories is hyper stylised, with some very over the top physical acting. There were a couple of scenes that put me in mind of watching a ballet, huge gestures and exaggerated emotional responses. It was pretty neat, to be honest, because although I’ve never seen this story as a ballet, I do love fairy tale ballets.
The Beast was a great Gothic hero, lots of ‘dangerous’ rage and self loathing emotions, very Heathcliffe-esque. I mean, I guess there is a lot of self loathing built into the original story. The whole tale is centred on how people look – Beauty’s sisters are vain, Beauty is beautiful, the Beast is hideous, and they played up all of these aspects in this movie. I guess I just didn’t expect the Beast to constantly be saying ‘I’m hideous! Don’t look at me!’ but hey, it all worked.
Does it make me love the people? It does. Beauty is very good and kind, but she was pretty sassy to the Beast which made my affection for her increase a lot. The Beast was very emo and that appealed to me, he wasn’t creepy either, instead insisting right from the start that the house was Beauty’s and he was hers to command.
Bechdel test: It does! Félicie and Adélaïde talk about clothes and going out, and how they have to put up with having no money. They talk about lots of things actually, and to Belle, although she mostly speaks to men.
Best line: Hm, the problem with seeing this in the cinema is that I can’t remember my favourite lines… maybe… Eh, there was
Beast: you pet me as you would an animal.
Beauty: you are an animal
but there was some more deep stuff which I liked too. Sadly
State of Mind: That was neat!