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Warm Fire, Hot Cocoa, & Fuzzy Slippers

September 25th, 2005 (11:05 am)
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© 2005 D. Gordon. First posted at Third Eye.

A few movies, much like special friends, are always reliable: dedicating time to them always provides a big reward, especially when they're showing on the big screen. I'd place Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast in that category.


It's not the most identifiably Cocteauesque of the artist's movies (I'd save that title for Orpheus, which has many many more of his signature touches in it) but it's more of a unique jewel among the wider universe of movies. It's no accident that this movie hasn't disappeared from the radar screen over time. The castle workings (oh, the candelabra never fail to get me), the costumes, the acting - it all just comes together to make something wonderfully rare, which is doubly amazing considering this was made right after the end of WWII. Plus it remains the children's story that it came from (keeping in mind that many of the old fairy tales scare the bejeezus out of kids).

One really interesting point from the 1947 US press book, by Cocteau himself, on how he approached filming a fairy tale :

"My story would concern itself mainly with the unconscious obstinacy with which women pursue the same type of man, and expose the naiveté of the old fairy tales that would have us believe that this type reaches its ideal in conventional good looks. My aim would be to make the Beast so human, so sympathetic, so superior to men, that his transformation into Prince Charming would come as a terrible blow to Beauty, condemning her to a humdrum marriage and a future that I summed up in that last sentence of all fairy tales: 'And they had many children'."

The cynic in me finds that very, very funny (and actually kinda sad). But it's subtle enough that it doesn't ruin things for anyone who doesn't pick up (or doesn't wish to pick up) on it.

I'm bending my DVD-buying rules (only things that stand a good chance of disappearing) and getting a copy. And I'll try to find a copy of the book by Madame Leprince de Beaumont.