Beauty and the Beast (1946 film)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Beauty and the Beast (French: La Belle et la bête) is a French film, made in 1946, based on the fairy taleBeauty and the Beast.” The film was directed by Jean Cocteau, and starred Jean Marais in three roles, including the Beast, as well as Josette Day as Beauty. Michel Auclair played Ludovic, Beauty’s brother.

This version adds a subplot involving Belle's suitor Avenant (also played by Jean Marais), who schemes along with Belle's brother and sisters to journey to Beast's castle to kill him and capture his riches while the sisters work to delay Belle's return to the castle. When Avenant enters the magic pavilion which is the source of Beast's power, he is struck by an arrow fired by a guardian statue of the Roman goddess Diana, which transforms Avenant into Beast and reverses the original Beast's curse. When the Beast comes back to life and becomes human at the end, he transforms into a Prince Charming with Avenant's handsome features, but without his oafish behaviour. Avenant is a probable inspiration for Gaston in the Disney adaptation, but is portrayed as a less malevolent character.

The score was by Georges Auric, and the cinematography by Henri Alekan. Christian Bérard and Lucien Carré covered production design. The film was made in black-and-white.

The film is notable for its surreal quality and its ability to use existing movie technology to effectively evoke a feeling of magic and enchantment. The set designs and cinematography were intended to evoke the illustrations and engravings of Gustave Doré and, in the farmhouse scenes, the paintings of Jan Vermeer.

In 1995 composer Philip Glass composed an opera version. In its initial incarnation the musicians and singers would perform the work on stage with a restored, newly subtitled print of the film playing on a screen behind them. Belle was sung by Mezzo-Soprano Janice Felty. The current Criterion Collection DVD offers the ability to view the movie while listening to either soundtrack.

Often considered one of the finest fantasy films of all time it, to some extent, inspired the Disney animated film of the same name.

American singer-songwriter Stevie Nicks wrote her 1983 ballad "Beauty and the Beast" after screening the film for the second time.

Plot summary

While scrubbing the floor at home, Belle (Josette Day) is interrupted by her brother's friend Avenant (Jean Marais) who tells her she deserves better and suggests they get married. Belle rejects Avenant, as she wishes to stay home and take care of her father, who has suffered much since his ships were lost at sea and the family fortune along with them. Belle's father (Marcel André) arrives home announcing he has come into great fortune that he will pick up the next day, along with gifts for his daughters, Belle's shrewish sisters Adelaide and Felicie. Belle's roguish brother Ludovic (Michel Auclair) signs a contract from a moneylender (Raoul Marco) allowing him to the ability to sue Ludovic's father if he can't pay. Later, Belle's father finds on his arrival that his fortune has been seized to clear his debts and is forced to return home through the forest at night.

Belle's father gets lost in the forest and finds himself at a large castle whose gates and doors magically open themselves. On entering the castle, he is guided by an enchanted candelabra that leads him to a laden dinner table where he falls asleep. Awakened by a loud roar, Belle's father wanders the castle's grounds. Remembering that Belle asked for a rose, he plucks a rose from a tree which makes the Beast (Jean Marais) appear. The Beast threatens to kill him for theft but then suggests that one of his daughters can take his place. The Beast offers his horse Magnificent to guide him through the woods home. Belle's father explains the situation to his family and Avenant, as Belle agrees to go and take her father's place. Belle rides Magnificent to the castle, finding the Beast. Belle faints at the sight of him and is carried to her room in the castle. Belle wakes up and finds a magic mirror which allows her to see anything. The Beast invites Belle to dinner, where he tells her that she's in equal command to him and that she will be asked every day to marry him. Days pass as Belle grows more accustomed and fond of the Beast, but continues to refuse marriage. Using the magic mirror Belle finds her father deathly ill. The Beast grants her permission to leave for a week. He gives Belle two magical items: A glove that can transport her wherever she wishes and a golden key that unlocks Diana's Pavilion, the source of the Beast's true riches.

Belle uses the glove to appear in her bedridden father's room, where her visit restores him to health. Belle finds her family living in poverty, having never recovered from Ludovic's deal with the moneylender. Jealous of Belle's rich life at the castle, Adelaide and Felicie steal her golden key and devise a plan to turn Ludovic and Avenant against the Beast. Avenant and Ludovic devise a plan of their own to kill the Beast, and agree to aid Belle's sisters. To stall Belle, her sisters trick her into staying past her seven day limit by pretending to love her. Belle reluctantly agrees to stay. The Beast sends Magnificent with the magic mirror to retrieve Belle but Ludovic and Avenant find Magnificent first, and ride him to the castle. Belle later finds the mirror which reveals the Beast's sorrowful face in its reflection. Belle realizes she is missing the golden key as the mirror breaks. Distraught, Belle returns to the castle using the magic glove and finds the Beast in the courtyard, near death from a broken heart. Meanwhile, Avenant and Ludovic stumble upon Diana's Pavilion. Thinking that their stolen key may trigger a trap, they scale the wall of the Pavilion. As the Beast dies in Belle's arms, Avenant breaks into the Pavilion through its glass roof and is shot with an arrow by an animated statue of the Roman goddess Diana and is himself turned into a Beast. As this happens, arising from where the Beast lay dead is Prince Ardent (Jean Marais) who is cured from being the Beast. Prince Ardent and Belle embrace, then fly away to his kingdom where she will be his Queen, and where her father will stay with them and Belle's sisters will carry the train of her gown.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Beauty and the Beast (1946 film)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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