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La Belle et la Bête

September 8, 2010

188. La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast)
Directed by Jean Cocteau
France, 1946
IMDB | allmovie

Reviewed by Rachel
First viewing since childhood


A beautiful girl takes her father’s place as the prisoner of a beast in a secluded castle.

Essential Scene:

Every night at seven o’clock, the Beast (Jean Marais) meets Belle (Josette Day) in the dining room. Every night he asks her to marry him and every night she refuses.

This time, Belle wants to take a walk around the grounds with him.

The Beast: Belle, I hope you do not find the days too wearying.

Belle: Tonight, I confess, I was almost awaiting seven o’clock.

The Beast’s ear’s suddenly prick up as he sees a deer running through the forest. He thinks about running after it, but he resists. She takes his gloved hand and they continue walking.

The Beast appears rather weak and he stops. Belle asks what is wrong. The Beast tells her he is thirsty. Belle immediately goes to a fountain and scoops some water in her hands. She tells him to drink, and he noisily licks the water from her palms. As he looks up to her, his eyes sparkle.

The Beast: Does it not disgust you, letting me drink like this?

Belle: No Beast. I am glad to do it. I wish never to cause you distress…

The Beast: And yet… your dream is to be far away from me.


One word kept on going through my mind when I was watching this; beautiful. The lighting is absolutely breathtaking, as are the sets, the costumes and indeed Josette Day herself. Cocteau does this almost effortlessly, without trying to pummel you with fairytale sentimentality.

The film opens with a letter from Cocteau. He explains that a child will believe the stories they are told and that he is asking us, the adult viewers, to open our minds just a little bit to allow ourselves to enjoy the magic. I did open my mind. I first saw this as a child but, I have to say, I appreciate it so much more now.


Reviewed by Ally
First viewing

Essential Scene:

Belle rides by night to the Beast’s castle. She plans to save her father, whom the Beast has vowed to kill, by offering herself as a sacrifice.

Belle runs through the castle doors, her cloak billowing behind her. The hallway is lined with candelabra held by human arms. The arms move, seeming to follow Belle as she runs.

She climbs the stairs to a doorway, covered by a curtain and guarded by more arms. The arms pull back the curtain and let her in.

She finds herself in a corridor. The translucent curtains swell in the wind as Belle floats down the corridor, not seeming to move her feet. The scene is filmed in eerie slow motion. There is no sound, only music.

Finally she comes to a door. It whispers to her; “Belle, I am the door to your room.”


La Belle et la Bête is one eerie film. Disembodied arms for waiters, a mantlepiece made of living statues, a horse that knows exactly where the rider wants to go, teardrops that turn into diamonds…

But it’s also quite beautiful. The cinematography perfectly captures the magic and poetry of the story. The Beast was both intimidating and endearing — I was quite sad to see him humanised. Apparently Greta Garbo felt the same way and, upon watching the transformation, was heard to say “Give me back my Beast!”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 8, 2010 4:21 pm

    This review made me move La Belle et la Bête to the “high priority” bit of my lovefilm rental list. I was going to see it anyway because of the list, but now I want to see it IMMEDIATELY.

  2. September 8, 2010 5:08 pm

    The beast is based on Cocteau’s Persian cat – and it shows! He is just so cute….

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