- Actors: Jean Marais, Josette Day, Mila Parély, Nane Germon, Michel Auclair
- Directors: Jean Cocteau, René Clément
- Writers: Jean Cocteau, Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont
- Producers: André Paulvé
- Format: Black & White, Dolby, DVD-Video, Subtitled, NTSC
- Language: French
- Subtitles: English
- Region: All RegionsAll Regions
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Number of discs: 1
- MPAA Rating:
- Studio: Criterion
- Release Date: Feb. 18 2003
- Run Time: 93 minutes
- Average Customer Review: 73 customer reviews
- ASIN: B00007L4I6
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #16,106 in Movies & TV Shows (See Top 100 in Movies & TV Shows)
Beauty and The Beast (The Criterion Collection)
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This is definitely not the Disney version. While it remains faithful to the plot of the classic fairy tale by Leprince de Beaumont, Jean Cocteau's 1946 French romantic fantasy is the product of a sophisticated, mature sensibility in its tones and textures and, above all, in its surprising emotional power. With sparkling black-and-white imagery that, for once, is actually dreamlike rather than cute or kitschy, and with a Beast (Jean Marais) who is almost as glamorous with his silky blonde facial hair as he is clean shaven, the movie casts a seductive spell. It might actually be a little too rich and unsettling for kids. Even the costumes and the draperies are entrancingly ornate. Viewers intoxicated by this enveloping vision should consider moving on to Cocteau's even more aggressively other-worldly 1949 masterpiece Orpheus, in which Marais plays the doomed poet of ancient Greek legend, updated to a Parisian "punk" milieu of motorcycles and black leather. --David Chute --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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This film is much more true to the original story. Disney even stole ideas from this release to put in their version and never credited Cocteau for what they took from him.
The special makeup effects for the beast are nothing short of incredible considering when this film was made. This film is also credited with reviving French cinema which had been ravaged by the German occupation.
It was an early attempt to present a child's fairy tale for an adult audience. The Criterion edition also has the excellent Phillip Glass opera available for the secondary audio track.
Regardless, the new "Beast" DVD comes with significant upgrades over previous U.S. video versions. The notoriously bad audio loses almost all of its persistent scratchiness and lack of dynamics -- giving the "Beast" back his roar. The English subtitles benefit from much-needed care in translation and presentation.
Another notable change is the resurrection of Cocteau's original opening -- the live-action titles in which the stars' names are hastily written on a blackboard and the director's handwritten message to the audience.
Modern-day composer Philip Glass' "Beauty and the Beast" opera -- usually performed live as Cocteau's movie plays as a silent film -- comes on an optional audio track, in Dolby Digital 5.1. There's an undeniable thrill in having "Beast" unspool as Glass' hypnotic music swirls around the room, but the replacement of the original actors' dialogue with opera singers' wailing quickly wears thin. The opera comes with its own set of subtitles.
The new DVD carries over the 1991 commentary by film historian Arthur Knight that appeared on the original Voyager laserdisc and on the 1998 DVD. The talk is informative, but one gets the feeling Knight would rather be talking about the director's first film, the avant-garde "Blood of a Poet" (1933). Bringing a fresh second opinion to the disc is cultural historian Christopher Frayling, whose talk is as good as it gets in academic film commentary. (Sir Christopher's track was recorded in 2001 for the British Film Institute.) Frayling greatly admirers Cocteau's film but doesn't hesitate to point out weaknesses. Unlike Knight, Frayling stays on topic, moving scene-to-scene with the film but never wasting time with the obvious.
The titiular beauty, Belle (Josette Day), works like a dog for her ne'er-do-well brother Ludovic and her snotty sisters. When their father was going home through the forest, he stumbles across an enchanted castle ruled by a cruel Beast (Jean Marais). When the father thoughtlessly plucks a single rose, the Beast gives him a choice -- he can die, or he can send one of his daughters.
Of course, Bella goes straight to the castle, and finds herself in a new world of magic, mystery and enchantment. She also begins falling in love with the Beast, despite his leonine appearance. But when she returns home for a visit, her siblings and her nasty suitor Avenant begin plotting to kill the Beast and destroy the life Belle has been given.
Floating candles, stone hands and faces that move, glittering jewels, magical mirrors, living statues, and a exquisitely sylvan palace filled with mist and light. This is a really haunting, beautiful movie that doesn't spare any visual impact that it can make -- and that quality makes the entire film feel like a delirious dream that you never want to wake up from.
Jean Cocteau's direction really elevates this simple story into a piece of art, especially since he makes such careful use of light, which makes everything in the castle look luminous. And he inserts many striking scenes, such as Belle and the Beast's wanderings in a sea of statues, and when he drinks water out of her hands, or when she sees him approaching from behind in a mirror.
Day is really astounding as Belle -- she's very sweet, kind of a doormat, and really seems like a girl who is too nice for her own good. Marais does a remarkably good job emoting with his eyes and voice, especially since the poor man could barely move his face -- when the camera zooms in on his eyes, you can see the smoldering emotions.
Jean Cocteau's exquisite "Beauty and the Beast" is a glimmering jewel in classic movies -- lusciously detailed, painfully lovely, and directed with great care. A must see for any cinephile.
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It was also not clear to me that the movie was in French.Read more