Beauty and the Beast
(La Belle et la bête)
With Jean Marais, Josette Day, Marcel André.
France, 1946, 35mm, black & white, 94 min.
French with English subtitles.
Print source: HFA
The first feature film by France’s legendary poet, playwright, actor, and painter, Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast is one of cinema’s most gorgeous works. Cocteau brought to his adaptation of this classic fairy tale an astounding group of artists and technicians, from set designer Christian Bérard and dress designer Escoffier to Arakélian, who did the creative makeup, and Henri Alekan, who provided the dreamlike luminosity of the film’s cinematography. Jean Marais is touching in his role as the accursed nobleman who is forced to live out his life entombed in the grotesque body of a beast, and Josette Day is radiant as the young daughter who is willing to sacrifice herself to save her father and, ultimately, to save her captor as well.
In one of his greatest technical achievements, the legendary animator Norman McLaren combines hand-engraving techniques with the striking use of dyes to depict this tale about birds of a feather.