Title: La Belle et la Bêt)
Release Date: October 29, 1946
Director: Jean Cocteau
Production Company: DisCina
In post-war France, escapist fantasy was the goal in this adaptation of the 1757 story Beauty and the Beast. Belle (Josette Day) works hard to support her widower father (Marcel André) as he falls into debt. She receives only insult from her vain sisters (Mila Parély, Nane Germon) and no support from her ne’er-do-well brother (Michel Auclair). Her brother’s friend Avenant (Jean Marais) proposes marriage, but Belle is devoted to staying with her father.
While traveling in hopes of settling his debts, Belle’s father stumbles upon a mysterious castle and when he plucks a rose for Belle, he is condemned to death by The Beast (also Jean Marais). Belle takes her father’s place as a prisoner in Beast’s castle and slowly begins to appreciate him. The castle is super eerie with human arms holding the candelabras and the eyes of the statuary moving. Belle and the Beast appear to move as if choreographed in a dance, and in once scene Belle glides down a corridor past blowing curtains (a scene that must’ve inspired 1000 music videos). The design of the Beast’s castle and costume were very obviously inspirational to the animators of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
The tone of this adaptation is very eerie, party psychological horror, part avant-guard art piece. And the clear sexual undertones of the movie are very unsettling. It’s worth a watch for a well-directed and artistic take on a familiar tale.