Recommendation of the Week: Beauty and the Beast (1946)

No, not THAT one, I’m talking about Jean Cocteau‘s sublime rendition, La Belle et la Bete.

Marvel at a visual aesthetic Cocteau himself described as a “soft gleam of hand-polished old silver” as only Black and White photography can provide, courtesy the eye of DP Henri Alekan. Ironically, the film was originally intended to be in colour, but produced just months after the German surrender supplies of any kind were hard to come by.

Dazzling and truly magical, the film is stuffed with some of the most impressive trick photography ever filmed. Come for the opulent romance as only the decadent French cinema of the 40s could provide, stay for the spectacle.

Need one more justifiable reason to watch? Just to be aware of how many films have riffed on its eccentric visuals over the years: Sleepy Hollow (2000), Legend (1985), Labyrinth (1986), most of the romantic bits from Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), as well as—and not that it matters— The Phantom of the Opera (2004). Just to name a few.

Useless trivia masquerading as fun fact: Actor Jean Marais underwent five hours makeup each day for his role as the Beast. His appearance would frighten off the local children whenever he arrived on set at the Chateau de Raray, where the castle exteriors were filmed.

Further reading, including clips and informative essays: http://www.criterion.com/films/177-beauty-and-the-beast

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