Beauty and the Beast (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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With each re-viewing of Beauty and the Beast, I see new layers of Cocteau's vision. As a child, I was enthralled by how real, and actually lived in, this fairy tale world seemed. And I was spellbound by the Beast, brought fully, both horribly and tenderly, to life by Jean Marais' riveting performance. I will never forget the Beast's death scene, when Marais expresses worlds of pain, love, and self-understanding solely through the eyes peering out of a feral, hair-covered face.
The film does not need today's digital special effects; it still works perfectly with its own low-tech but deeply resonant wonders. And it is a triumph of design. Cocteau worked closely with production "illustrator" Christian Bérard and cinematographer Henri Alekan to give the picture what he called "the soft gleam of hand-polished old silver." It is filled with simple but gorgeous - and unforgettable - tableaux, from a corridor of disembodied human arms grasping candelabra that burst into flame as you pass by, to Beauty gliding in slow motion through the enchanted castle. Then there is the indefinable magic of the scene at the manor with huge white sheets drying in the sun, creating silhouettes of striking power.Read more ›
This marvelous, exquisitely rendered adaptation centers around the core of the fairy tale. An impoverished merchant (Marcel Andre) comes across a most unusual chateau, deeply hidden in the forest, where he is provided with hospitality by an unseen host. Upon leaving, he happens to break off a rose from a rosebush in the garden of his reclusive host, in order to take it back to Beauty (Josette Day), the most beloved of his three daughters. This simple act calls forth his previously unseen host, The Beast (Jean Marais), who tells him that the theft of that which The Beast loves most will cost the merchant his life or the company of the one whom the merchant loves most, one of his daughters. Allowed to return home temporarily, the merchant tearfully recounts what happened to him, and Beauty surreptitiously goes in his place to the enchanted chateau upon a magical horse that seems to sparkle with fairy dust. It is there that she, too, meets The Beast. Alas, the path of true love does not run smoothly, and Beauty and The Beast, together, make that discovery.
Be prepared for a visual feast of dreamy black and white cinematography, as well as one of the most unusual sets ever to grace the silver screen. Living statuary, human candelabras, and tears that turn to diamonds are just some of the exquisite, surreal immagery that take the viewer's breath away.Read more ›
Yet something drew me to this edition, and the verdict is definitely a positive one. The restored version is lovely-all the incredible contrasts of soft greys, silver and stark blacks have been gloriously brought back to life. This what they mean by "in glorious black and white!" There is a clarity and richness here that gives the viewer an opportunity to notice subtlties that were obscured by the scratchy old print that was used on the VHS version. Gone are the distracting audio pops and clicks and most of the visual scratches, allowing the viewer to more readily fall into the dreamy trance of this timeless film.
Cocteau was a poet and a visionary,and despite the technical limitations of film in the 1940's, he brought real magic to the screen, something that today's digital wizardry doesn't always deliver. This is a richly textured retelling of this famous fable, full of detail and nuance. It is decidely more Grimms than Disney, so I don't recommend showing it to small children. Charged with an undercurrent of eroticism and psychological symbols,it is really a fairy tale for adults.
The disc is packed with extras. I haven't yet checked them all out, but the "Screening at the Majestic' is a nice documentary. I particularly enjoyed seeing Jean Marais, still very much alive and kicking, reminiscing at the very house that was used as the set for Beauty's family home.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent film! I've seen it a half dozen times and finally had to own it. Wonderful classic, done Cocteau style with wonderful surrealistic imagery. Read morePublished 17 days ago by melisa mojica
This is a wonderful surrealist film, but also a great satire of insensitive behavior, in a very French way. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Frank
Great classical movie... Almost as good as the Disney version, but a great realistic depiction of how the tale would be in real life.Published 2 months ago by Candice-D
Fantastic movie. Watched it with my teenage daughter who at first did not want to watch it (it's b&w and in a foreign language). We both loved it. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Joseph F. Kuhn
Beautifully rendered confirmation that love conquers all accompanied by cinematography far ahead of its time.Published 3 months ago by Jerry
This is a beautiful fairy tale for adults, about a young woman and a beat who was going to kill her father, until she who volunteers to take his place and go to the beast's castle. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Anne-Marie
The raw truth of are social cultural influence. With a beauty attached that at times feels unrelenting. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Ishmael
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