18 August 2018

THE BFI PRESENTS JEAN COCTEAU'S 'LA BELLE ET LA BÊTE.' (1946) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.




LA BELLE ET LA BÊTE/BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. (1946) DIRECTED BY JEAN COCTEAU. SCREENPLAY BY JEAN COCTEAU. BASED ON 'BEAUTY AND THE BEAST' BY JEAN-MARIE LE PRINCE DE BEAUMONT. STARRING JEAN MARAIS AND JOSETTE DAY.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

The Beast: 'You're stroking me as if I were an animal.'
Beauty: 'But you ARE an animal, my Beast.'

This French language drama is the most gorgeous of films. It's been likened to a magical, beautiful dream, a fabulous collection of unforgettable visual imagery in which Beauty's tears even turn to sparkly diamonds, like Lady Gaga's when she appears in an episode of THE SIMPSONS. Show-off, lol.

It's a re-telling of the old fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast, in which a beautiful but impoverished young woman, who is also pure of heart, becomes the reluctant object of affection of the titular Beast. You guys probably know the story already, but we'll recap it briefly for the benefit of those who don't.

It was one of my favourite of all the fairy tales. I always particularly loved the ones with beautiful princesses in them, like CINDERELLA or RAPUNZEL, in which young women fair of face but short in spondoolicks were rescued from their shitty lives by handsome rich princes who owned castles and riches and shit.

Wishful thinking, much? You could keep your Little Red Riding Hoods and your Little Red Hens and even your Enormous Turnips, I was that princess with the ridiculously long hair trapped in the tower by the evil old witch, waiting for my knight in shining armour to come along on his snowy-white charger and take me away from it all.

It's hardly very pro-feminist, is it? Women should be encouraged to be their own knight in shining armour, to rescue themselves from the shit situations they find themselves in. Still, maybe we all need a little escapism in our dreary lives and that's where fairy tales come in.

Okay, so Beauty's father in the film- and in the fairy tale also, this is more or less a straightforward adaptation of the fairy tale- is a merchant who's gone from rich to poor, then back to rich again briefly and finally back to poor again. That'll teach him to dream big, snigger. Anyway, let's not trouble our romantic minds with piffling matters of economics and trade and such-like.

It's when he's coming home from a failed business trip that a storm compels the Dad to spend the night at what he thinks is an empty mansion. He's served delicious food and drink by invisible servants (spooky!) and is made comfortable for the night in front of a roaring fire.

It's the following morning that he falls afoul of the formidable owner of this mysterious mansion. He unleashes the wrath of the Beast (who looks like a cross between The Cowardly Lion in THE WIZARD OF OZ, Oddbod in CARRY ON SCREAMING and Puss-In-Boots) when he picks one of the Beast's roses in the garden for Beauty at home.

The Beast threatens to kill the merchant for the theft of the rose. The only way the merchant can get out of being killed is to send one of his daughters to the Beast's mansion in his place to live as the Beast's Queen. Beauty is the only one of his three daughters to actually give a shit about her old man, so she's the one who comes to live chez Beast, albeit with some trepidation.

She needn't have worried. The big hairy Beast treats her with the utmost respect. He's head-over-heels in love with Beauty, who wasn't called Beauty for being ugly. The ravishing young blonde woman is lavished with jewels and all sorts of finery by the Beast, who proposes marriage to her every night as well and gets refused each time because Beauty is still holding out hope that, one day, her Prince will come. Little does she know, heh-heh-heh.

Personally, I think she should accept one of the Beast's many proposals. Sure, he's a giant hairy man-beast with animalistic urges and a bloodlust he can't control but he's a total gimp for Beauty. He's very probably a sexual masochist as well, the kind who'd ask her if he can kiss her tootsies or have her walk on his back with her stiletto-heeled shoes. Eeuw, lol.

Beauty can have anything in the world she wants from the Beast in the way of material possessions and, I imagine, if she had a list of enemies she wanted offed as well, the Beast would oblige her. Wouldn't that be wonderful?

All your mean old exes boiled in oil, haha, and all you had to do was say the word. Hang on. Let me just fantasise about that for one blissful minute. Ah yes, that's the stuff. All right, I'm okay again. Let's press on.

The notion of a beautiful but loving woman being held captive by a hideous monster who worships her, or professes to, is not a new one. The Phantom of the Opera imprisons Christine in his underground cavern many fathoms beneath the Paris Opera House.

I don't think Christine ever loves the Phantom. Not unnaturally, she is repulsed by his physical appearance but, being a compassionate woman at heart, she feels terrible pity for this lonely outsider. I'm afraid that that's the best you can hope for if you're the dreaded 'opera ghost.' 

Yep, a wee bit of pity sex and she keeps her eyes tightly squeezed shut the whole way through the act. Charming. Still, pity sex is better than nothing, isn't it? Some of my exes would never have had any sex at all if it weren't for pity sex.

Likewise anyway, Lucy Harker gives herself to Nosferatu, who's not exactly a looker with his bald skull and sticky-out bat-ears, only to save the town from the evil doings of the Vampyre. She doesn't do it out of love or even a fondness for Nosferatu and surely he knows that, but as long as he's getting what he wants, he doesn't care. He just keeps on worshipping at the shrine of that long, swan-like white neck.

It's also not the first time in a fairy tale that a parent has to forfeit his daughter to a hideous creature with supernatural powers, just for committing some trifling offence. Rapunzel's Pops has to offer up his first-born child, which turns out to be Rapunzel, to a cruel old witch just because he nicks a few of her mouldy old lettuces for his preggers wife. Jeez. I wonder what she'd have demanded for a whole  bleedin' cabbage.

Anyway, do you wonder what happens to Beauty and the Beast at the end of their story? Jean Cocteau (1889-1963) doesn't deviate from the traditional ending of the fairy tale so the 'happy ever after' finale won't exactly come as a huge surprise to y'all.

It's still well worth watching the film to see how he does it, though. Diana's Pavilion is the setting for the final scenes of the movie and I defy you not to be moved by the grand climax. Rather perversely, we women always cry at happy endings. I love a good bawl followed by a really good blow. Into a tissue, that is. Blowing my schnozz. I blow my nose into a Kleenex. Don't be so mucky-minded, you lot...!

Again, I'm not entirely sure that the moral of the story is a good message to be imparting to the women of today. Put up with your ugly bloke and he'll turn into a handsome Prince and set you up for life in his castle? Whatever happened to independent women? And Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves? Don't you make a liar out of The Eurythmics, Jean Cocteau. Just don't you do it.

The film is seventy-two years young this year and it still has the power to leave you feeling like you've just woken up from a beautiful dream when the credits roll. Stupid alarm clock. Ruin my sleep, would you? Just give me five more minutes, I beg you. Just five more minutes...

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is available to buy now from the British Film Institute.

BFI releases are available from all good home entertainment retailers or by mail order from the BFI Shop Tel: 020 7815 1350 or online at www.bfi.org.uk/shop


AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

 You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com










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