La Belle Et La Bete  [DVD]
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The DVD features a commentary by writer and cultural historian Professor Sir Christopher Frayling, a documentary, Screening at the Majestic, in which, 50 years on, Jean Marais, Mila Parely, Henri Alekan and others recall the experience of making the film, a picture gallery, and biographies. The fim has been digitally remastered from a new, restored print. Black and White, 90 minutes
French language with English Subtitles
Total Running Time: 118 Minutes
La Belle et La Bete is one of the all-time great movie fantasies, and one of the most gorgeous pictures ever made. It was the first feature film by French director Jean Cocteau, a writer, poet and painter with ties to the surrealists. (In fact, his first film, The Blood of a Poet, was delayed after the scandal caused by L'Age D'Or, made by his fellow surrealists Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali.) The haunting, surreal visuals (candelabra made of human hands, for example) and a sensitive performance by Jean Marais as the Beast imbue the film with an indelible, mythical power. --Jim Emerson, Amazon.com --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
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The titiular beauty, Belle (Josette Day), works like a dog for her ne'er-do-well brother Ludovic and her snotty sisters. When their father was going home through the forest, he stumbles across an enchanted castle ruled by a cruel Beast (Jean Marais). When the father thoughtlessly plucks a single rose, the Beast gives him a choice -- he can die, or he can send one of his daughters.
Of course, Bella goes straight to the castle, and finds herself in a new world of magic, mystery and enchantment. She also begins falling in love with the Beast, despite his leonine appearance. But when she returns home for a visit, her siblings and her nasty suitor Avenant begin plotting to kill the Beast and destroy the life Belle has been given.
Floating candles, stone hands and faces that move, glittering jewels, magical mirrors, living statues, and a exquisitely sylvan palace filled with mist and light. This is a really haunting, beautiful movie that doesn't spare any visual impact that it can make -- and that quality makes the entire film feel like a delirious dream that you never want to wake up from.
Jean Cocteau's direction really elevates this simple story into a piece of art, especially since he makes such careful use of light, which makes everything in the castle look luminous. And he inserts many striking scenes, such as Belle and the Beast's wanderings in a sea of statues, and when he drinks water out of her hands, or when she sees him approaching from behind in a mirror.
Day is really astounding as Belle -- she's very sweet, kind of a doormat, and really seems like a girl who is too nice for her own good. Marais does a remarkably good job emoting with his eyes and voice, especially since the poor man could barely move his face -- when the camera zooms in on his eyes, you can see the smoldering emotions.
Jean Cocteau's exquisite "Beauty and the Beast" is a glimmering jewel in classic movies -- lusciously detailed, painfully lovely, and directed with great care. A must see for any cinephile.
Criterion's restored DVD and Region A-locked Blu-ray is quite superb, boasting an excellent transfer and a selection of very good extras that exceed those on the BFI's UK DVD - audio commentaries by Arthur Knight and Christopher Frayling, 1995 documentary Screening at the Majestic, TV interview with Henri Alekan, extract from TV show Secrets Professionnels - Tete a Tete, optional Phillip Glass opera soundtrack, stills gallery, film restoration demonstration, trailer and booklet including article by Jean Cocteau and (though curiously not in the Blu-ray version) Mme. Leprince de Beaumont's original story. By contrast, the BFI's DVD only includes the Frayling commentary, Screening at the Majestic documentary and stills gallery. Do bear in mind, however, that Criterion's Blu-ray is Region A-locked.
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