Jean Cocteau’s sublime adaptation of Mme. Leprince de Beaumont’s fairytale masterpiece—in which the pure love of a beautiful girl melts the heart of a feral but gentle beast— is a much loved landmark of cinematic fantasy.
Conjuring spectacular visions of enchantment, desire and death, Cocteau’s film was completely different in atmosphere and style from any fantasy film that had gone before. As much behoven to the avant garde as to classical drama, Henri Alekan’s subtle black and white cinematography and Christian Berard’s masterly costumes and set designs combine to create a truly magical piece of cinema – like a children’s fairytale refashioned into a stylised and highly sophisticated dream.
Cocteau is one of the twentieth century’s grand virtuosos of cinematic illusion, and La Belle et La Bête is his pearly ode to the transformative powers of love and art.