Jeffrey T. Pain
Arts & Life Correspondent
“Children believe what we tell them. They have complete faith in us. They believe that a rose plucked from a garden can plunge a family into conflict. They believe that the hands of a human beast will smoke when he slays a victim, and that this will cause him shame when a young maiden takes up residence in his home. They believe a thousand other simple things. I ask of you a little of this childlike simplicity and, to bring us luck, let me speak four truly magic words, childhood’s ‘Open sesame’: Once Upon a Time…”
This preamble opens Jean Cocteau’s adaption of the classic tale “Beauty and the Beast,” which the International Film Series presented Tuesday. Cocteau’s film, released in 1946, has garnered near-universal praise for its visuals, music and stunning effects, and more than 60 years later it remains a powerful work.
If your only contact with “Beauty and Beast” is the well-loved Disney film, then you will likely be quite surprised by Cocteau’s film. Belle’s family in the 1946 film not only includes her father, but her two sisters, her brother and family servant. The brother, sisters and servant are the main antagonists of this film, and the conclusion of the movie may shock those who have only seen the Disney version.
One of the greatest strengths of the film is its special effects, which are quite impressive for the time period in which it was released. One notable example is the candles that appear to light and extinguish themselves as Belle’s father enters and leaves the Beast’s castle. Another example is the Beast himself; his costume and makeup are startlingly well done and rarely falter even under close-up shots. The film saves its best trick for last: Belle and the now-human Beast fly away into the sky as Beast takes Belle off to his kingdom.
While the turnout for the screening was small, there was a decent amount of discussion among the audience members after the film. The general reaction was very positive, proving that movies such as this age well. The International Film Series has plans for more films in the future, and if they are all equal to the quality of Cocteau’s “Beauty and the Beast,” I personally cannot wait.