“I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because I was tempted with promises of coffee, chocolate….and typo correction.
For some time, I’ve planned to write reviews of favorite films and save them in the Cinema section of my website. The blogs will focus on those most relevant to my mystery series—French films, movies filmed in France, those with a historical setting, and thrillers and mysteries.
I decided to open with the French classic, La Belle et la Bête. With great anticipation, I unwrapped the new Blu Ray version of this tale. The print was gorgeous, and I was as enraptured as ever with the film. The evening was especially delightful since I had a virgin viewer, my friend Tamara, to watch it with me. The film can still enchant me with the Beast’s magical castle, with it’s eerie watchful sculptures, and the arms holding the candelabra.
When the movie was over, we also watched some of the extras. My brain was spinning with ideas, and I set out to find some cinematic stills.
I also looked for illustrations from Gustave Doré, who I’d learned had inspired much of the look of the movie with his illustrations of fairy tales. The first one looks very much like Beauty wandering the grounds of the castle.
These next two show how Doré’s Sleeping Beauty merged with Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast.
Then I happened on the gwarlingo essay I’ve included at the bottom of this blog. The article seemed to say all I meant to and more. It has many stills from both the film and stories from the production, images of the art and the setting, plus a trailer. Rather deflated, I popped the link up once on Facebook and considered what else I might write about. But I did continue to think about the film, and so will post a few of those thoughts, plus images that aren’t included in the gwarlingo post. And some that are—just in case you don’t click there.
The main difference in this viewing was that for the first time I really appreciated the brilliant cinematography at the start. Always in the past, I’ve been eager to spend time with my beautiful beast, and wanted the sisters and despicable suitor to be gone. A shot that I particularly loved was of the sisters entering a carriage, a frame within a frame within a frame. A clever and witty visual, one of many, and I waited far more patiently for Beauty to come to the Beast.
And as I watched I appreciated the subtlety and range of the greys in the film, which I later saw were very much the look of the Doré etchings.
Lastly, in watching the extras, I discovered something very strange. I’d heard the story of Garbo crying out at the end of the film “Give me back my beautiful Beast.”
I certainly wanted the dark, glorious beast, and not the shiny, pouffy Prince who rises up to replace him.
And I found that both the director, Jean Cocteau and the lead actor, Jean Marais, were deluged with letters expressing the same demand. Because I knew that Cocteau was smitten with Marais, I thought that he was deliberately making him as pretty as possible. Indeed, Cocteau was making him all pastel and shiny, but it was a disruptive, duplicitous choice. Cocteau wanted exactly that saccharine Prince so we would all cry for the Beast. But why? Apparently, the pastel Prince was supposed to show that women foolishly overvalued male beauty and sought it out over character. And because of this failing, Belle would end up with the boring pretty boy and be less happy than she would have in her enchanted life with the Beast. She’d have lots of kids, a fancy castle to keep, but the magic would fade from her life.
I find several problems with this. There is the glorious spring into the future to end the movie, Beauty and her Beast sailing away quite joyfully, with the pastels blending very nicely with the billowing cloud. Despite our regret at losing the magnificent Beast, the end does promise Happily Ever After. Also, the Prince is the Beast, so even if we don’t like the pastel round hose, smarmy curls, and lipstick, we should be getting the same soul in the new body, shouldn’t we—though perhaps minus some interesting bestial darkness?
And even more upsetting, Beauty chose the soul, not the packaging. She loved her Beast and was trying to save him, not playing Princess and the Frog in hopes of winning something cuter with a transformational smooch. She is not happy with the change, but dismayed, and says that she’ll have to get used to it. So that rather bothers me now, even more than before.
I think I’ll go with it’s the same soul as the Beast, and maybe rumpled after sex, he’ll regain some Beastly charm.
Your plus, a most excellent commentary on the movie by Michelle Aldredge. Just click this last still.