A beaut of a Beast

LA BELLE ET LA BÊTE Di­rected by Jean Cocteau. Star­ring Josette Day, Jean Marais, Mila Parély, Nane Ger­mon, Michel Au­clair

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews - DC

PG cert Few DVD dis­trib­u­tors pro­duce pack­ages as at­trac­tive and use­ful as those as­sem­bled by the Bri­tish Film In­sti­tute. The or­gan­i­sa­tion de­liv­ers yet an­other es­sen­tial pur­chase with this dig­i­tally re­stored ver­sion of the first full-length fea­ture by un­cat­e­goris­able French poly­math Jean Cocteau.

In an up­com­ing book on 1,000 no­table films, David Thom­son, the dis­tin­guished English critic, ar­gues strongly for La Belle et la Bête, first re­leased in 1946, to be con­sid­ered as a film for chil­dren. That makes sense.

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Af­ter all, Dis­ney even­tu­ally pro­duced its own adap­ta­tion of this story of a young wo­man’s re­la­tion­ship with a be­sot­ted ogre and, though no­tably less glossy than that an­i­mated ver­sion, Cocteau’s film still dis­plays its roots in a tra­di­tional fairy tale.

Still, there is some­thing in­sid­i­ously dis­con­cert­ing about The Beast’s hairy long­ings and Belle’s even­tual com­pli­ance. Maybe, we sus­pect, the hid­den mes­sage has less to do with over­com­ing ini­tial prej­u­dice than with ac­knowl­edg­ing cer­tain deeply buried, un­men­tion­able de­sires. At any rate, the disc comes with a re­li­ably fas­ci­nat­ing com­men­tary by Sir Christo­pher Frayling and a fine es­say by fel­low writer Ma­rina Warner.

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