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Beauty and the Beast

Page history last edited by Kathryn Hansen 10 years, 11 months ago

     Beauty and the Beast, or La Belle et La Bête, was made in 1946 and directed by Jean Cocteau. This film is a fantasy, complete with all of the magic and makings of a children's story, made for adults. It shows that films are able to reveal our childish sides that think of far away kingdoms with monsters and princesses, without being childish in the process (1). 

     Coming out of WWII, Cocteau wanted to show France that anything can be overcome with enough hard work and honor (1). He used Beauty and the Beast for this purpose as well as his art.

     Many say that this movie's artistic nature is rare in this time (1). The sets portray places in dreams, compassion that is simple at first glance, the Beast's primitive and animalistic nature, and awakening of the Beauty's passion as she discovers her sexuality. Beauty is a prisoner to virtue until she arrives at the Beast's castle and slowly realizes her attraction to his primal nature.

     This film compares the free man to the slave. The Beast is free because he can do what he wants but he is unable stay free because of his beastial instincts. Beauty is also slave to her virtue although she is also free to do as she choses(2). The emotion and passion of this film is clearly seen when it is needed to be.

     This film relies heavily on special effects to create a better fantasy world. The inventive and artistic nature of Cocteau and his crew really did a great job with this using the technology that they had. For instance, when Cocteau needed candles to magically light, he filmed them blowing out the candles and the actors walking backwards and doing their scene in reverse. Not only did this require some creative thinking, it also required great actors to be able to do their scenes in reverse.

     The use of cinematography in this film added to the overall effect of the fantasy world. The great use of mise en scene to show what needed to be shown. everything on screen had a purpose and even when nothing was on the screen, that nothingness still had a purpose. The use of contrast with mise en scene made you look at the important parts of the film where the emotion was being shown. 

     Beauty and the Beast reestablished Cocteau's place in the world of film after WWII. This film, although not regarded as the best of Cocteau's work, did an amazing job of showing the quality of the films of both French cinema as well as Queer cinema

Thoughts concerning the controversial ending

 Anyone who has seen this film cannot help but be a little confused by the ending. Because of Cocteaus beautiful manipulation of the viewers emotions. we learn to love the Beast just as Belle does by the end of the film. He is dying for love, the ultimate sacrifice for his beloved, when Belle returns to him. it is interesting to note that the beast is dying long before the arrow pierces Avenant's back. At this same time her brother and other love interest are approaching the castle to kill the beast and steal his wealth. The dreamlike quality of this film makes us believe that fairy tales can come true. But just at the right moment the scene where the boys break violenty into the sacred shrine, is ultimatley symbolically the shattering and betrayal of Belle's virtue. The Beast in his refined and Kingly manner would never have done such a thing to her. In the end the Beast takes on the persona of Avenant, and Belle is shocked, and I believe a little disapointed. But she says she will get used to it. Kind of a let down in the end. They go floating off to his kingdom. Is the Beast actually Avenant's alter ego? Are both men just parts of the same whole? Is the moral not to feel that you know the person you fall in love with because in the next minute they could be someone else. The film is a wonderful example of technical mastery and poetic flair.

Clip of the ending here.









Works Consulted


"The DVD Journal | Reviews : Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et la Bête): The Criterion Collection." The DVD Journal | DVD News, Reviews, Rumors, and Commentary. Web. 07 Oct. 2009. <http://www.dvdjournal.com/reviews/b/beautyandthebeast_cc.shtml>. (1)


"BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (Jean Cocteau, 1946) «." Dennis Grunes. Web. 07 Oct. 2009. <http://grunes.wordpress.com/2007/03/22/beauty-and-the-beast-jean-cocteau-1946/>. (2)


Comments (1)

Sean Desilets said

at 9:36 pm on Oct 7, 2009

* Great point about the purpose of nothingness
* Excellent linking throughout
* Page seems a bit flat to me. Slight lack of interpretive energy?
* Some possible additions: controversy about the ending, data about performance style (which couldn't also go into the mise-en-scene page)

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