Le Belle et la Bete is a post-WW2 Fantasy film adaptation of the fairy tale written in 1975, sharing the same

name, by Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont. The 1946 adaptation was directed by René Clémen and Jean Cocteau, who also wrote the screen play. J. Cocteau was a poet, novelist, dramatist, designer, playwright, artist and a film maker, bringing all of his talents together to try and achieve “total art.” Christian Bérard was on the production team, who was a fashion illustrator, which really impacted the whole look of the film. La Belle et la Bete is considered to be the best film of all time in the fantasy-romance genre.

La Belle et la Bête 1946

Fig 1. Movie Poster

With various differences to the original fairy tale, Cocteau's story follows a beautiful young daughter, Belle, who turns her self in, in replacement of her father, to the lonely, magical Beast, who lives in a misty woods, in an enchanted castle, to serve for the crime the father committed, stealing a rose from his garden. There Belle is to live with the beast, where she is to meet him every day at 7pm, and is confronted with a question each day from the beast, proposing her to become his wife. Belle, at first revolted by the beast, begins to learn of his lonely and caring nature, and slowly enjoying his company. La Belle et la Bete was such a remarkable remake of the famous fairy tale, because of the affects and environment created throughout the film. The sets created are so beautiful and very extravagant, yet truly magical and breathtaking, because of the amazing affects and lighting created, that can stand the test of time, as even a modern audience can marvel at the sets produced. “I shall run the risk of hyperbole, and claim that the beast mask is the single greatest make-up effect of all time - if not necessarily the most strictly realistic, surely the most magnificent in effect, frightening us and seducing us in one breath, begging to be touched as much as anything in any film ever has been.” (Brayton, 2008)

Fig 2. Wondering

This can be said for the whole of the sets produced, as where everything is made by hand, it adds a whole new dimension, it adds more character than most CGI movies can attempt to create today. There is a uniqueness that CGI can not emulate, to having real objects, real sets, real lighting. It becomes a lot more magical, more fleshy, and somehow, a lot less beautifully unrealistic, even though everything we are seeing is in fact real. The artist's imprint in the sets add such a unique property to the film's appearance. C. Berad's fashion illustration influences allowed the producers to make almost every scene a stunning image throughout the whole film. Even for simple shots when Belle is running through the depths of the castle, the emphasis on her clothes, the movement of gowns, made is so majestic, the attention to small details like how the curtains sway create an affect like the swooping and smooth lines of fashion illustrations. Fashion illustration has a unique character different from other illustration, because of the simplicity, the minimal-ness, yet they managed to bring that quality into moving image and cinema. It can be said that J.Cocteua succeeded in producing “total art”, as in this production it features almost every single type of art into one, which is the reason why La Belle et la Bete made such an impact, because it's a poem as much as it is a film, it's a painting as much as it is a film, and so on. Though “total art” can be said to just be an ideology, striving to reach total art defiantly had made many many favours in the outcome of the film. Where J.Cocteau did create a visual poem, the set it self tells the poem all through out the movie. “Cocteau wanted to make a poem, wanted to appeal through images rather than words, and although the story takes the form of the familiar fable, its surface seems to be masking deeper and more disturbing currents.......Cocteau uses haunting images and bold Freudian symbols to suggest that emotions are at a boil in the subconscious of his characters. Consider the extraordinary shot where Belle waits at the dining table in the castle for the Beast's first entrance. “ (R.Ebert:1999)

Fig 3. Awaiting the Beast The whole film features metaphors, symbols and icons, telling half the story in the sets alone. Although the fairy tale is very much child friendly, Cocteua's adaptation features many topics which may be seen as not suitable for children. Cocteua can be seen to explore topics like sexuality throughout the story, like how in the scene shown above, the confrontation between the two characters through what is said shows Belle's discomfort of the Beast's company, but the stage shows the sexual tension between the two. All the way through this confrontation, Belle is grasping and fiddling with the knife in her hands, a very Freudian way to suggest the stress on the relationship between the two, and the whole castle with human faces watching Belle constantly, very uncanny, but also begins to explain the perversion of Belle's company by the beast.

“The spilled pearls that magically self-assemble in La Bête's palm during one of his failed erotic encounters with La Belle are just one example of the film's abundant traces of the spunk of Cocteau's consciously queer artifice. Such traces may be less "obvious" here than in Cocteau's more explicitly homoerotic works. And yet it's precisely the questions and challenges of visibility—of what's obvious and to whom and why—that Beauty and the Beast so masterfully explores.” (M. Cavitch:2011) Cavitch here explain how the story can also be seen as quite personal to J. Cocteau, expressing some of the stresses he may have had being a homosexual in a very homophobic time, and we can begin to see why La Belle et la Bete is so successful, as it makes us begin to question our selves, identities and what we see. “For all its very genuine and supremely successful appeal to the childlike, it's also a mature, sophisticated meditation on gay aestheticism, and thus a crucial work in Cocteau's lifelong project—not just to acknowledge but also actively to participate in the artifice of the real.” (M.Cavitch:2011) La Belle et la Bete's success can be credited to the unique approach to the production of the sets, with influences outside of cinema alone, and the poetic addition to the fairy tale, with there being a meaning to everything we see, making us question the whole topic about identities. It was a beautiful adaptation of a timeless fairytale, with a character that CGI works will never be able to imitate. Bibliography: Max Cavitch (2011) La Belle et la Bete in: www.slantmagazine.com [online] at: http://www.slantmagazine.com/dvd/review/beauty-and-the-beast/2048 (accessed online 11/11/2012)

Tim Brayton (2008) La Belle et la Bete in: www.antagonie.blogspot.co.uk [online] at: http://antagonie.blogspot.co.uk/2008/06/tspdt-190-la-belle-et-la-bte.html (accessed online at 11/11/2012) Roger Ebert (1999) La Belle et la Bete in: www.rogerebert.suntimes.com [online] at: http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article? AID=/19991226/REVIEWS08/912260301/1023 (accessed online at 11/11/2012) Illustrations: Fig 1: Film Poster (Film poster) http://callmeredtelephone.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/labelle-et-la-bete-film-posters.html (accessed 11/11/2012) Fig 2: Wondering (movie still) http://2.bp.blogspot.com/Z43_WVvuqyw/UDjGRh_4Y6I/AAAAAAAAIuE/cxrhPUIrjtM/s1600/beautybeast1.jpg (accessed 11/11/2012) Fig 3: Awaiting the beast (film still) http://4.bp.blogspot.com/8jjmmQ4YYSg/UDjFvlqP4xI/AAAAAAAAIrU/ShX7SDsh5j8/s1600/CRI_113184.jpg(accesse d 11/11/2012)

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful