La Belle et la Bête (1946)

by guest writer

La Belle et La Bête (Beauty and the Beast) concludes our month dedicated to art-house cinema. This last choice is not a random one for the end of this magical month, as it is a fairy tale adaptation, based on the tale of the same name by Jeanne-Marie LePrince de Beaumont. Never before has such a romantic fantasy been treated in such an artistic and poetic manner. The film’s beauty relies on Jean Cocteau’s talent to transcend centuries without really losing grip on the present. By opening the movie with the classic formula “Once upon a time” the director requires the viewer to open up to the irrational.

Cocteau’s visual majesty shows itself through surreal and idiosyncratic imagination. One amazing characteristic of the writer’s visual poetry is his capacity to emerge supernatural elements from everyday scenes. In La Belle et La Bête the nowadays is represented by reference to Dutch paintings of the 17th century. Having set his mind upon this background theme, the director instructed his cinematographer to study the work of painter Vermeer in order to develop a sense for space, figure positioning and lighting. Before computers, here comes fantasy full of astonishing effects and trick shots.

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