Tuesday, July 30, 2013

188. La Belle et la Bete/Beauty and the Beast (1946)

Running Time: 93 minutes
Directed By: Jean Cocteau
Written By: Jean Cocteau, Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont
Main Cast: Jean Marais, Josette Day, Mila Parely, Nane Germon, Michel Auclair
Click here to view the trailer


For the new arrivals to the "1001 Movies I (Apparently) Must See Before I Die" blog, I'll be resuming an idea that I started last season. It's basically where I watch the five oldest movies I have left from THE BOOK and then the five newest and so on and so forth, until I meet in the middle. I've also taken the liberty of excluding twenty-five films from this practice, to save for the finale. As it is, "Beauty and the Beast" WAS the oldest film I had yet to watch.

Note: Tonight I'll also begin the practice of playing a little classical music as I write my reviews, on a very low volume. It's quite relaxing and perhaps will serve to stimulate my brain and make for some better reviews. We'll see...

We all surely know the story of "Beauty and the Beast", whether we saw it as children of the 90s, when Disney produced it in 1991 or perhaps we're just familiar with the tale that is indeed, as old as time. The main female character is Belle (Day). She's sort of a Cinderella type character, reduced to scrubbing floors and keeping house, despite her striking physical beauty, while her two snotty sisters are never subjected to such chores and instead take to ridiculing her. One evening while their father is trying to make his way home through a dark forest, he becomes lost and wanders into a castle. Inside the castle he is poured a glass of wine by a lone hand, cropping up out of the center of a table and the room is lit by arms, with seemingly no bodies, that hold glorious candlesticks, illuminating the massive halls. Soon, Belle's father meets the lord of the manor, a beast (Marais) who wants his life. Belle's father begs for his life and the beast makes him a deal: He may return home, only if one of his daughter's will return to the castle the following day and take his place in death. Belle's father leaves and when he arrives home and tells his story, Belle offers to take his place. The next day, Belle rides a glorious white horse named Magnificent back to the beasts castle, where she intends to take her father's place in death. However, the beast falls in love with the beautiful Belle and instead of killing her, asks for her hand in marriage. Belle, despite budding feelings for the beast, cannot seriously acknowledge the beasts proposal and instead asks for his friendship and secretly wishes he were human. When Belle learns that her father is growing very ill, she pleads with the beast to let her go and visit him. He allows it, but tells her that if she doesn't return within one week, he shall die of grief.

So yeah, that's basically it. I'd seen "Beauty and the Beast" once before and while I appreciate the merits of the fairy tale, I have to say I wasn't too impressed with this rendition. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that this 1946, Jean Cocteau version of the story was quite boring and severely dated. Of course, I guess it SHOULD be dated, as it is a story that needs to be told from a centuries old point of view. However, this one just hasn't aged well and it's age is prevalent when watching. In fact, it truly feels more like a film made in 1926, rather than 1946. Cocteau fancied himself a poet and therefore "Beauty and the Beast" is quite the over-romanticized little tale, full of all the things a you'd expect to see in a movie directed by a poet/filmmaker. If memory serves me correctly (as I haven't seen it in YEARS) I'd say the 1991 Disney production of the story is a more successful adaptation and works a lot better. It (again, if memory serves) takes the time to build the romantic relationship between Beauty and Beast and also takes the time to detail the character of Avenant/Gaston. I really SHOULD take the time to check that film out, while I still have this version fresh in my mind. Here everything just seems so rushed and nothing is ever elaborated on, as if it's just assumed that we can fill in the details on our own. The character of Avenant really never has proper motivation and is really never established as a villain until the last act, when he and Ludovic decide to steal the beasts riches. Also, it seems like only ten minutes passes between the time Belle arrives at the castle, repulsed by the beast and the time in which she's professing feelings for him. Too rushed, too boring and too dated does not a good film make.

RATING: 4.5/10  Quick and painless tonight, as I just don't have much to say about this one. Two films remain from the 1940s and I plan to have them both capped off by weeks end.


July 30, 2013  9:56pm


  1. I thought this was OK.. but that said I fully accept all your 'negative' points.. Yes, decidedly dated (and by that I also mean for it's time) and trying a little too hard to be romantic and (to take your point) poetic. (I find my self very surprised for using that as a criticism).
    I'd still prefer to watch this again than the Disney version.

    1. For some reason I thought I was going to get some flack for that low rating. Not necessarily from you, just in general. Good to know someone is on my side.


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