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500 Five-Star: La Belle et La Bete (1946)

December 4, 2011

 

As anyone who reads this blog regularly will know, I am a complete and utter fangirl of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. That film was greatly influenced by La Belle et La Bête, so I was glad to finally have the chance to watch the original version.

The best thing about this version is without doubt the production design, with astounding fantastical elements contained within just about every scene. The story, of course, is a classic fairytale, and that is exactly what director George Cocteau aimed to deliver. He wanted a film in which adults could fulfil their dream of being transported back to the innocence of childhood, at a time (mere months after the end of World War 2) when this was needed more than ever. La Belle et La Bête is a noble effort, and one which just about succeeds providing you’re willing to abandon yourself completely to fantasy and whimsy.  It’s a truly poetic and visually stunning piece, and it deserves to be seen for that.

Honestly though, I hoped to fall in love with more than just some gorgeous effects…and sadly, I didn’t.  In fact, were it not for these effects, I do believe I would have struggled to get through the film at all.  It’s very possible that the professional film critics of this world will consider this as blasphemous, but I was unable to find anything likeable about Josette Day in her role as Belle.  She was so irritating that I spent most of the film imagining how fun it would be to throw various foodstuffs at her head.  Jean Marais, playing the Beast, was better, yet I found it rather difficult to warm to a character who was so in love with that annoying do-gooder Belle.  The other main problem was that, as I said, you have to be truly willing to look at this film through the eyes of a child.  If you don’t, or can’t, you’re going to be faced with a terribly melodramatic film, with a severely underdeveloped, and at times completely nonsensical, story.  Sadly, I seem to be one of those who just couldn’t switch off the adult side of myself…most likely because the adult side of myself was too busy mentally envisioning satsumas bouncing off Josette Day.

 

Verdict:

A beautiful film, but that’s not enough to make it a great one.

****

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