Friday, 18 December 2015

La Belle et la Bete (1946) - A review.

Fig 1.

La Belle et la Bete (1946) directed by Jean Cocteau is the filmic retelling of the fairytale - Beauty and the Beast. But it is a film designed not only for the child who enjoys fairytale, for at the start we adults are given a request by Cocteau - “I ask of you a little of this childlike sympathy…” and with such a preamble we are put into the mindset that this isn’t merely a tale for children, even if we are to suspend disbelief as a child - certainly an engaging motif to ponder during the course of the 93 minute exercise in the surreal. 

Cocteau himself is described as a poet and surrealist and this is something of import when considering Beauty and the Beast for the art direction follows suit with this sensibility. Dreamlike but never crossing over into the grotesque, Cocteau's vision of a shifting reality is mesmerising throughout. Indeed, as soon as Belle enters the Beast's castle she is confronted with sights of “...candelabra held by living human arms that extend from the walls. The statues are alive, and their eyes follow the progress of the characters” (Ebert, 1999) and in fact, the film goes further to the realms of eroticism. “Cocteau uses haunting images and bold Freudian symbols to suggest that emotions are at a boil in the subconscious of his characters” (Ebert, 1999). Interestingly, when confronted by these detached arms, they are all male, all of the arms holding candles are male and perhaps there is something in that. Almost as to give rise to ideas that the Beast’s abode is a seat of masculinity or some place of male power.

Fig 2.
The undercurrent of eroticism is strife here. The Beast - following the same tradition of the Wolf Man wherein the characteristics of masculinity form the main struggle within the Beast, at points his hands literally smoke after having killed someone to give rise to feelings of shame, shame that so repulses when seen by Belle. “This is acknowledged finally when Beauty (Josette Day) tells the Beast (Jean Marais) "I like being afraid... with you." (Macnab, 2014) This idea of sexuality and repulsion is audibly put to us and at once discusses the notion of sexual attraction to the dangerous qualities of masculinity.  

La Belle et la Bete is an early example of a traditional tale imbued with that of the else, a surrealness and presence that is only addressed in the mise en scene to produce a meta narrative of sexuality. Smart, Inventive and extremely watchable La Belle et la Bete is a masterclass on what can be achieved through simple means.  

Fig 3.


Ebert, Roger. 'Beauty and the Beast review'. rogerebert.com. [online] Available at: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-beauty-and-the-beast-1946 [Accessed 18 Dec. 2015]   

Macnab, Geoffery. ‘La Belle Et La Bete: Film review - Cocteau's Forties fantasy is still a thing of real beauty’ independant.co.uk [online] Available at: 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 [Accessed 18. Dec. 2015]


Fig 1. Beauty and the beast Poster. [image] Available at: http://theredlist.com/media/database/muses/couples/fiction/beauty-and-the-beast/018-beauty-and-the-beast-theredlist.jpeg [Accessed 18 Dec. 2015]

Fig 2. Arm Candelabra [image] Available at: http://www.cinematraque.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/bras_belle_bete.jpg [Accessed 18 Dec. 2015]

Fig 3. Belle surrounded by arms [image] Available at: http://www.dvdjournal.com/reviewimgs/b/beautyandthebeast_cc_imgs/beautyandthebeast_cc_03.jpg [Accessed on 18 Dec. 2015]

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