La Belle Et La Bête (1946)

La Belle Et La Bête (1946)

La Belle Et La Bête
tells the story of the famous French fairy tale The Beauty And The Beast.

In this remake of the classic fairy tale, Belle's father is a merchant whose ship has gone missing. A merchant seeking to revive his family's fortunes is captured by a Beast while picking a rose for his daughter. The merchant offers his daughter, Belle, in his place.

La Belle Et La Bête will no doubt be the modern-day second choice for the Beauty and the Beast fairytale - following Disney's remake in 1991.

Theatrically, they are completely different styles of film. While Disney chose to go with an obvious musical masterpiece, Jean Cocteau chose a classical setting. The background behind each Belle is drastically different and the beast's personality and motives vary drastically between the films. For that reason, despite the obvious connections the films should not be seen from the same viewpoint.

The enchanted castle is probably the cleverest part of the film. Of course technology was lacking in the 1940's, so Cocteau instead decided to literally personify the castle. The candles are set in human hands on arms that move as a person passes, various structures have human faces set into them that turn on movement and the doors have been given voices.

As with most films from the era, the acting is rather exaggerated and is annoying in places. Bizarrely, Cocteau's story has one character playing three roles; Avenant is a friend of Belle's brother, the beast himself and, later, the prince. Although this is a smart plot twist, the Avenant and prince characters are both poor compared with the complex emotions shown in the Beast, which is - perhaps unsurprisingly - the standout character in the film.

An interesting alternative view on the classic fairytale.

4 stars