Cocteau’s visually stunning film beats the crap out of Disney and the TV sappy romance series.
The first time I saw this, I didn’t know who Cocteau was, in terms of his literary, theatre or film work; only that this was a powerfully moving version of one of my favorite fairy tales. This version looks and feels like a dream.
Cocteau moves between the “real” world inhabited by Belle (plyed by Josette Day) and the fantasy world where she meets The Beast (played by Jean Marais). The style is very period, and the film is in black-and-white with subtitles in English.
Marais doubles as her brother’s friend, Avenant, as well as The Beast-Prince.
Cocteau was highly influential in avant-garde art, though he ever claimed to belong to any one school or movement. He worked as a poet, novelist, filmmaker, playwright, theatre designer (sets and costumes), and critic. He was friends with–or collaborated with or influenced–everyone, and moved in artistic and political circles during the era of the 1920s through the early 1960s. He died on the exact same day as Edith Piaf, his beloved friend.