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Queer Cinema

Page history last edited by Sean Desilets 11 years, 8 months ago


Queer Cinema could mean many different things, ranging from cinema produced by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) community (or cinema about the aforemented community), to cinema that "promotes" or shows sexualities that vary from the heteronormative construction of human men and women in love. For our purposes with La Belle et La Bete, we'll be using the later definition. La Belle et La Bete is part of Queer Cinema in that the audience wants the Beauty to fall in love with a Beast or animal, repositioning the previously "othered" Beast as an object of desire.



Queer-ities of La Belle et La Bete

Cocteau's film La Belle et La Bete fits this structural definition of 'Queer Cinema', as it was produced by a gay film maker and features a love story propelled by bestial desire. Michael Popkin states that King Kong, a film that also employs bestiality, is a "truly frightening [film] because the audience is made to desire [what is] almost universally felt to be forbidden" (1). Many in the audience, including Greta Garbo, wanted Cocteau to "Give me back my beast" (1). The viewer is driven towards the creature, who is made more likeable by the film than the handsome man he eventually becomes. Beautifully metaphorical, Cocteau identifies with the Beast instead of Beauty, moving away from the classic tale of Beauty's love transforming a beast into a prince. In his complicating treatment of the beast, Cocteau creates a world where the intentions of human men regarding Beauty become increasingly sinister and the beast's intentions compellingly honorable and good. Cocteau creates a sense in us that the beast should succeed in making Beauty his wife, even if it means "proposing nothing less than going to bed with a monster"(1).




Here as we see Beauty give The Beast that same answer, one can't help but think that our answer to Cocteau's ending would also be the same, "give us back the Beast". This reaction stems from the film's complication of its own "traditionally" happy events . As it unfolds, The Beast is transformed into a beautiful man, and Belle is whisked away to live in happy affluence.  However, The Beast's human form very intentionally resembles Avenant, the foppish suitor who previously desired Belle's hand in marriage (and who is transformed into a beast himself at the film's close). Belle herself seems to change in the closing moments of the film, shifting from a compassionate, but assertive woman, to a individual of subservience.  Her reaction to the Beast's physical transformation is less than thrilled, describing it not as a joyful occasion, but instead "something she'll have to get used to".  In these dynamic shifts lies Cocteau's (and thus, the film's) redefined assessment about normative sexual structuring.  Belle, who previously was empowered- if, rather perversely- by her imprisonment in The Beast's magical space (The Beast makes reference to her wielding power over him), must now submit to a relationship of, well, submitting to normative interaction.  While it could be argued that The Beast's chivalry is, in turn, a product of patriarchal power, Cocteau's film, by situating The Beast as the true object of Belle's desire, seems to prescribe their magically and sexually-charged interaction in lieu of the anticlimatic nature of the ending.  Perhaps most essentially, the film celebrates its own focus on the aesthetic and magical beauty of its previously threatening bestial character, and in that attention, creates a new space for sensational love to exist.



Movements in Queer Cinema

Now we are going to shift focus to follow the first definition of Queer Cinema as cinema produced by or about the LGBTQ community. Queer Cinema began in the earliest cinema either as the "bachelor or bachelorette" friend who helped the male hetero protagonist fix themselves up to get the girl or as "a critic-proof comic trope that has more to do with whimsy and naughtiness than Homosexuality"(4) as Gary Morris states in "A Brief History of Queer Cinema". Even in gay friendly Wiemar Berlin, Queer cinema still played to the stereotypes of unfulfilled love, as Countess Geschwitz is in Pandora's Box and it being disgraceful as the men who are being framed act in Different from the Rest. With the emergence of the 60s and it's slogan of "free love", a more positive view came in to play with Queer cinema. But with the AIDS epidemic and increasing hatred in the popular culture of the 80's, the LGBTQ community began to want a voice in cinema and in the 1990's, they created that voice with the New Queer Cinema. New Queer Cinema is a movement begun in the 1990's to openly and "aggressively" deal with the Queer culture, politics and identity. Many of films that are produced today that promote the LGBTQ community come from this new genre of cinema.


Works Cited:

Malcolm, Derek. "Jean Cocteau: La Belle et La Bete" Guardian.co.uk. July 1, 1999. Web. October 5, 2009.  

Marris, Gary. "A Brief History of Queer Cinema" Greencine.com. n.d. Web. October 5, 2009.

"New Queer Cinema" Wikipedia.com. August 19, 2009. Web. October 6, 2009.

Popkin, Michael. "Cocteau's Beauty & the Beast: The Poet a Monster" Magazine. Date Published. 100-109. Print.


Comments (1)

Sean Desilets said

at 8:13 pm on Oct 7, 2009

* Could certainly talk about some specific moments in queer cinema history (Almadovar, Todd Haynes, etc.)
* Some mechanical stuff (spelling of "hatred," for example)
* May want to define "heteronormative"
* Does rendering someone an object of desire remove her otherness?

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