La Belle et la Bete: Criterion Collection Eczema, migraines, and exhaustion were just some of the beastly ailments endured by poet/artist and first-time feature director Jean Cocteau while conjuring Beauty and the… La Belle et la Bete: Criterion Collection Eczema, migraines, and exhaustion were just some of the beastly ailments endured by poet/artist and first-time feature director Jean Cocteau while conjuring Beauty and the…
Movie on DVD Review

Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et Le Bete) (2003)

La Belle et la Bete | 'BELLE' DONE Marais (left) gets in touch with his inner Beast
'BELLE' DONE Marais (left) gets in touch with his inner Beast
EW's GRADE
A

Details Release Date: Feb 11, 2003; DVD Release Date: Feb 11, 2003

Eczema, migraines, and exhaustion were just some of the beastly ailments endured by poet/artist and first-time feature director Jean Cocteau while conjuring Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et Le Bête, his modernist take on the classic fairy tale, a work that stands as one of French cinema's most influential films. And the pressures were not solely creative. According to Brit writer Christopher Frayling's lively commentary (another by American critic Arthur Knight is worthy for biographical details), Cocteau's film was expected to resuscitate France's war-battered movie industry almost single-handedly.

Yet even as a relative novice, Cocteau knew what he wanted: simple effects (inspired by the in-camera trickery of Georges Melies), lighting lifted from Vermeer's interiors, hallways from ''Citizen Kane'''s Xanadu, and documentary-style cinematography (glorious in this restored print) to keep the enchantment from being too precious. Most important, his Beast (Jean Marais, with an enormous assist from the fabulously expressive mask) is a profoundly pitiable creature who, like Kong and Frankenstein's monster, grips our deepest emotions.

Originally posted Feb 11, 2003 Published in issue #695 Feb 14, 2003 Order article reprints
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