A masterpiece. The great Jean Cocteau has written that in order for a myth to live it must continually be told and retold, and this is just what Cocteau does in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST--bringing Mme. Marie Leprince de Beaumont's 1757 fairy tale to the screen. Beauty (Josette Day) and the Beast
(Jean Marais) are given a new life in the cinema thanks to Cocteau's poetry, Henri Alekan's cinematography, Georges Auric's music, and Christian Berard's art direction. The legend is familiar: a merchant's beautiful daughter saves her father's life by agreeing to visit the diabolical Beast, a
fearsome creature with magical powers. Beauty faints with horror upon their first meeting, but gradually grows to love the Beast, finding the soul that exists beneath his gruesome exterior.
While the narrative is basic and familiar, the film's visuals are not. A magical white horse blazes across the screen; the Beast's hands smoke after a kill; the hanging white laundry of Beauty's family billows in the breeze; the Beast's fantastical candelabras are human arms that extend from the
walls and emerge from the dinner table. It is a credit to Cocteau's genius (and to that of his collaborators) that he has taken the unreal world of a fairy tale and made it as real as the world around us. leave a comment