"Belle, you mustn't look into my eyes. You needn't fear. You will never see me, except each evening at 7:00, when you will dine, and I will come to the great hall. And never look into my eyes.'"
- The Beast
This Week's Essays
A Yearning for the Beast
With Beauty and the Beast, Jean Cocteau found a uniquely personal response to the post-war world. It was a strange time to be making such a stylized, fantastic film, and a particularly brazen act given his own tarnished reputation. France was healing from the occupation and Cocteau was emerging from a period of professional failure.
In Context: Collaboration and Artistic Vision
Escaping the filter of someone else’s documentary lens and instead putting pen to page, Jean Cocteau kept a journal that catalogues the making of Beauty and the Beast. It’s indispensable for its singular insight into the movie-making process. Titled Beauty and the Beast: Diary of a Film, the slim volume deepens one’s appreciation for the movie
At its core, though, Beauty and the Beast is pure simplicity. There are no bells or whistles. Its effects are simple by design and by necessity. With no high-tech graphics to assist him, Cocteau manages to create a world that is utterly dreamlike with only trick shots, drool-worthy costuming, and imagination.
True Magic of the Modern Fairy Tale
The film succeeds at getting even the most jaded adults to believe in magic for an hour and a half. Rarely has a film taken me away from reality like Beauty and the Beast. Rarely have I believed in magic. Rarely have I left a film feeling so much like a child.
With Bill Condon’s new live-action adaptation of Beauty in the Beast now in theaters, I imagine most cinemagoers have no idea that it isn’t the first. But for me, Jean Cocteau’s La belle et la bête is the Beauty and the Beast story that is the most cinematic, the most magical, the most romantic. And it doesn’t need a talking candlestick, either.