La Belle et la Bête

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Dir. Jean Cocteau

France 1946 | Black & white | 93 mins | Cert PG

Cast: Jean Marais, Josette Day

More beautiful than ever in a new 4K digital restoration, Cocteau’s spellbinding, sensuous masterpiece was recently described by Guillermo del Toro as ‘the most perfect cinematic fable ever told’.

A hapless merchant, lost in a dark forest, seeks refuge in the castle of a hideous monster who threatens to kill him unless one of his three daughters will agree to take his place. But when Beauty appears, the Beast falls madly in love with her. Hauntingly portrayed by Jean Marais, the Beast is all repressed lust and melancholy refinement, while Beauty (Josette Day) is no mere damsel in distress, overcoming her fears to explore a glittering, shadowy realm which abounds in supernatural terrors and delights. Might she secretly relish this adventure which will help unlock her deepest desires? Cocteau aspired towards a ‘realism of the unreal’, working with cinematographer Henri Alekan and designer Christian Bérard to conjure up a world of living statues, talking mirrors and candelabras clutched in disembodied hands. With the addition of an eerie orchestral score from Georges Auric, so magical is the entire effect that we are tempted to wonder – along with Beauty – ‘Do such marvels really exist?’ The answer must be an enthralled ‘yes’. (Margaret Deriaz)

Available on: DCP, DVD

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