6. Beauty and the Beast

A fairy tale can receive no better film treatment than Jean Cocteau’s 1946 adaptation of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. The well-known story is made rich with dream-like effects, gorgeous sets and costumes, and superb acting. Some of the imagery—Belle emerging through a wall; disembodied arms holding chandeliers which burst into flame—is the stuff that stays with you forever. And Josette Day’s stately portrayal of Belle is a perfect complement to Jean Marais, who plays both the Beast and Belle’s suitor, with all the subtleties between monster and man. This is a fantasy through and through, which means it’s more interested in archetypes and mood than character development or convincing illusions. That’s why I enjoyed the film much more when I stopped trying to analyze it, and instead let it seep into the subconscious like a good fairy tale should.


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