Beauty and the Beast

One of the reasons that we are drawn to stories is that they take us to places that we’ve never been, and show us things that we’ve never seen. And yet too often, perhaps because of the reduced options and the commercial conventions that we’re used to, we reject the most imaginative of tales for doing precisely what we ought to ask of them. Jean Cocteau’s version of Madame LePrince de Beaumont’s tale is one of these, and the unadventurous may well give up on it too soon. Resist—this film really does offer something uniquely strange and wondrous. It is a foreign film in the best sense, which is to say that it shows us things we’ve never seen at the same time that it strengthens our conviction about things we’ve always known. Central to this effect is the masterfully created, utterly convincing once-upon-a-time feeling that dominates the proceedings. What is remarkable is that Cocteau adds to this fairy tale sensibility a whole multitude of familiar gestures and interactions. Here the truism is demonstrated: the most wondrous of mythological, folk and fairy tales finally bring us back to our own selves in our own lives, helping us understand them more and live them better.

Dean Duncan

Film Info

Title: Beauty and the Beast (1946)
Country of Origin: France
Running Time: 96 min / US: 93 min
Language: French
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Sound Mix: Mono
Color: B/W
Certification: Argentina: 13 / Finland: K-16
Releasing Company: Cowboy Pictures [us] (2002) (USA) (theatrical) (re-release), Criterion Collection [us] (USA) (DVD), Criterion Collection [us] (USA) (laserdisc), DisCina [fr], Large Door Video (Australia), Lopert Pictures Corporation [us] (1947) (USA) (subtitled)
Producer: André Paulvé
Director: Jean Cocteau
Writer: Jean Cocteau, Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont
Cinematographer: Henri Alekan
Designer: Christian Bérard, Lucien Carré
Editor: Claude Ibéria
Composer: Georges Auric, Phillip Glass
Genre: Adventure / Drama / Fantasy