Review - Jean Cocteau's 1946 classic, "La Belle et la Bete"

WriterDave By WriterDave, 6th Jan 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Reviews>Film & TV>Fantasy

Jean Cocteau was a surrealist, friend to Salvidor Dali, painter, writer, actor, director, sculptor, and master of the avante garde. Here is short review of the original "Beauty and the Beast" from the mid-twentieth century.

Cocteau's Beautiful Fantastical Dream

Jean Cocteau’s 1946 version of Jeanne-Marie LePrince de Beaumont’s fable, “La Belle et la Bete”, far exceeds the popular Disney version most people know. For one thing, using live-action Cocteau was able to use surrealism to his advantage. Admittedly, Disney did do “Fantasia” and “Alice in Wonderland” but chose a more conventional route for their 1990’s “Beauty and the Beast”.

Jean Marais plays three roles,, his most interesting being ‘the Beast’. In fact, his other two roles come across as obligatory romantic stereotypes - it is as the Beast that he shines. Belle is played by the stunning Josette Day.

Cocteau employs clever special effects throughout the film to enhance the story. There is a kind of milky, almost gauzy, black & white photography which permeates the film. Raw light seems to be carefully manipulated throwing a shadow here, a burst or stream of light there - it’s really quite inspired.

When Belle traverses into the Beast’s castle, naked arms holding candelabras act as her flashlights. The effect was done by placing actors behind matted scrims, running a high-powered fan, then reversing the frames of the film. The result makes it seem as if disembodied arms are magically holding candles which light up as if out of thin air.

Other ingenious effects include statues which move, which were expertly painted faces finely matched with the scene to give the illusion of stone turning to life. The Beast himself is a marvel of early makeup with as kind of seamless style which even gave Marais some expression in his mouth and eyebrows.

The costumes are intricate, flowing; a fashion treat for those initiated with Paris Match. Belle’s sisters, straight out of Grimm’s fairy-tales, are reminiscent of Cinderella’s step-sisters with a dash of Rumpelstiltskin thrown in for good measure.

This dreamy, melodic art piece was made by Cocteau who loved art in all its forms, and certainly this could almost be a silent movie, although there is spare dialogue in French. The richness and sumptuousness of his vision practically infuses and oozes with every frame or film.


Beauty And The Beast, Foreign, French, French Film, Jean Cocteau Jeanne-Marie Leprince De Beauomnt, Jean Marais, Josette Day, La Belle Et La Bete

Meet the author

author avatar WriterDave
Writing can be many things to many people. For me, it is a way of expression and understanding. Reviewing films, hopefully helps myself and others better understand and get more out of the film.

Share this page

moderator Mark Gordon Brown moderated this page.
If you have any complaints about this content, please let us know


Add a comment
Can't login?