Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Beauty and the Beast Review

By Ben Macdonald

Directed by Jean Cocteau
Earliest Year of Release: 1946

Cocteau’s surreal and expressionistic adaptation of the 18th century French fairy tale is a stylish and magical fantasy. The Beast’s baroque castle, the elaborate costumes and the haunting, elegant special effects all contribute to the film’s striking imagery. As does the beautiful, shadow-filled black and white photography of cinematographer Henri Alekan (who went on to shoot William Wyler’s Roman Holiday and Wim Wender’s gorgeous Wings of Desire). Also, the living statues, disembodied arms and other animate objects which serve Belle and the Beast are considerably creepier than the singing household objects of the Disney retelling.
I think Guillermo del Toro said it best, who in a poll for the British Film Institute listed the film as one of his ten favourites, saying: “La Belle et la Bête is the most perfect cinematic fable ever told. After Méliès, only Cocteau has understood that perfect simplicity is required to tell a fairytale – and that nothing but the power of pure cinema is needed to create awe and wonder.”