Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Film Review: La Belle et La Bete

The third film we watched from the ‘Shapeshifters’ film programme was Jean Cocteau’s ‘La Belle et La Bete’, released in 1946 in France, which is a film adaption based on the story of the same name.

The story follows a young woman called Belle (Josette Day) who is kept in the Beast's castle as a substitute for her father after he is caught 'stealing' a rose. Belle and the Beast begin falling in love, however he eventually lets her go. Belle returns home but once she see's Beast is sad she goes back to him. Upon arrival Belle finds Beast dying from a broken heart. The curse of the Beast lifts and the two fly away.

This film is very much a fantasy with so many aspects of the film connected to the use of magic:

"From the opening credits, written in chalk on a schoolroom blackboard, to the final ascent into the clouds by Beauty (Josette Day) and the Beast (Jean Marais), transformed into a handsome prince, this is one of cinema's most magical films..."

The curse that the beast is unfortunate enough to have bestowed on him, the magical glove and key and the statue of Diana are all very fantasy based and all use magic in some way either good or bad. In the case of the curse it seems that this form of magic was implied to be bad, much like witch craft.

The use of the statue of Diana is an excellent example of suiting historical figures as Diana is seen as the Goddess of the hunt and with animals being part of her association the statue rightfully play the part of controlling who is man or beast.

I did feel that this film was too much fantasy and not enough realism, which made it more of an off putting film to watch:

"...he has some trouble capturing the right tone for the 'realistic' scenes..."

However on a plus the film was able to better capture the fantasy with all the inputs of magic and curses, innocent young female characters and love, Cocteau does himself justice making this film a very unique piece.

Like the previous two films this one employs the use of a physical change in the human appearance: 

"Before the days of computer effects and modern creature makeup, here is a fantasy alive with trick shots and astonishing effects,"

Much unlike both versions of The Fly, La Belle et La Bete doesn't disfigure or brutally transform the main subject. Instead it employs simplistic changes that help maintain the gentleman's appearance behind them. The cosmetic effects are much better than the rubber mask used in the 1958 The Fly but baring in mind that this film was made 40 years behind Cronenberg's film, the effects can in my opinion rival those of Cronenberg's The Fly.

Quote sources

Quote 1 - http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2008/sep/28/drama.dvdreviews1
Quote 2 - http://www.timeout.com/film/reviews/67583/la_belle_et_la_bete.html
Quote 3 - http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19991226/REVIEWS08/912260301/1023

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