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Film / Beauty and the Beast (1946)

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Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et la Bête) is a French film directed by Jean Cocteau, based on the Fairy Tale Beauty and the Beast and starring Jean Marais as the Beast and Avenant, and Josette Day as Belle. It's particularly noted for its visual design, which has influenced several subsequent versions of the story, the Disney one in particular.

This retelling adds the character of Avenant, a villainous suitor who is beautiful on the outside and ugly on the inside, contrasting with the Beast who is ugly on the outside and beautiful on the inside. This version may or may not be the first to include this character, but it's certainly the codifier.

The film was originally released in France in 1946, and received its US debut in 1947. For the other French version (from 2014), see here.

This film provides examples of:

  • Anti-Villain: Ludivic is a villainous sidekick variation of this. On one hand, he's a rascal who gets his family into debt, and "proud of it". But he's rather defensive of his sisters, to the point he won't stand to see even his friend Avenant try to assault one, and is livid when he slaps the other meaner sister. Not to mention he's honorable enough to come clean to his father that he's behind the debt that is repossessing their furniture, even knowing his father will (rightfully) blame him for it. Even when he goes along with Avenant's "kill the beast" and "loot his treasure" plan, one gets the feeling it's fueled by a wish to protect his sister Belle and redeem himself for the family debt.
  • Artistic Title: The opening credits appear written on a blackboard, then erased.
  • Author Appeal: Jean Cocteau was a cat lover, explaining why of all predatory animals to base the look of the Beast on, the character ends up having a very feline appearance.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Avenant seems like a reasonable guy most of the time...but then he'll turn around and sucker punch his friend, hit a girl, or plan to commit murder and theft.
  • Body to Jewel: Belle weeps diamonds when she is reunited with her father.
  • Brick Joke:
    • During one scene when the Debt Collector is taking Belle's family's furniture, Avenant and Ludavic are playing chess on one of the remaining tables. At one point, Avenant snarks that they may possibly take the table as well. At the end of the scene, one of the movers takes the chess table as well.
    • When asking their father for souvenirs to bring with his newly-regained riches, Belle's sisters ask for extravagant things. One of them asks for a monkey. Later, when Belle has brought home a mirror from the Beast's castle that shows one's true self, that same sister sees herself as a monkey in its reflection.
  • Chiaroscuro: The castle always has beams of light coming into darkened rooms from outside, creating strong contrasts between light and shadow.
  • Cool Horse: The Beast sends Belle's father home and has her come to the castle in his place by means of a magical white horse, Le Magnifique, which can take its rider anywhere they wish to go.
  • Cute Little Fangs: The Beast's cat-like face includes small, fairly non-threatening fangs.
  • Didn't Think This Through: The Beast gives Belle the key to the pavilion containing all his treasures and emphasizes how monumental a display of trust this is. So naturally, Belle leaves this extremely important and valuable key out in the open where her greedy sisters can easily nick it and doesn't even notice its absence until days later.
  • Don't Look At Me: The Beast begs Belle not to look directly into his eyes because it pains him.
  • Dysfunctional Family: The paterfamilias is weak and despised by most of his ungrateful children; two of the girls are stuck-up and cruel; the son is a feckless wastrel...and then there's Belle.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Avenant's first instant in the movie has him misfire an arrow that nearly shoots a dog. Innocent enough, accidents happen, right? Wrong! Shortly after, his interaction with Belle has him try to woo her and sweep her off her feet, despite she's uncomfortable with his advances. What seals it is how he tries to have his way with her, and Belle resisting and escaping his grip. If nothing else, this marks that Avenant shouldn't be trusted, even for looking deceptively handsome.
  • Everybody Has Standards: Ludavic, Belle's brother, may be a rascal and Avenant's shameless sidekick of debauchery. But when he witnesses Avenant nearly have his way with his sister Belle, he threatens him with a black eye. In fact, he has such high standards about messing with his sisters that when Avenant later hits his other, meaner sister, he's outraged at Avenant.
  • Extreme Doormat: Belle, who is perfectly willing to slave away while her sisters live a life of luxury and her brother sits around and does nothing. The only form of standing up for herself she has is when she resists Avenant's advances, and later when she calls out the Beast for being in her room without permission.
  • Faint in Shock: A classic example: Belle faints upon seeing the Beast for the first time, and he tenderly carries her through the castle to a bed; her peasant garb magically changing to a princess-worthy gown along the way.
  • Furry Reminder: Belle catches sight of the Beast lying on his belly, drinking animalistically from a pool.
  • Gorgeous Garment Generation: When the Beast carries a just-fainted Belle, her simple dress changes into a Pimped-Out Dress when he crosses the threshold to her bedroom.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • Avenant is punished by having the Beast’s curse affect him. It’s just as satisfying as the Beast kicking his butt in the other adaptations.
    • Belle's sisters become her servants after she's made queen, just as how they treated her like a servant.
  • Living Shadow: A minor case: when Belle's father first approaches the door of the Beast's castle, his own shadow suddenly looms up in front of him.
  • Living Statue: The Beast's estate is full of carvings of arms and heads, most of which are slightly animate. Late in the story, a full-figure statue of Diana comes alive and shoots Avenant.
  • Loose Lips: On visiting home, Belle immediately proceeds to spill information about the Beast's powers, riches, and complete trust in her to several people whose only interest is in exploiting all three.
  • Magic Mirror: The Beast gives one to Belle. It can show events at a distance, and when her sisters look into it, it reveals their true natures.
  • A Match Made in Stockholm: Like with just about all versions of this story, Belle falls in love with the Beast while being helped captive in his castle.
    Belle: Father, that monster is good.
  • Mind Screw: The ending. The Beast, having returned to human form, promises that Belle will reign along with him as queen in his kingdom. Then away, flying up into the sky as the film ends.
  • The Mirror Shows Your True Self: Belle's Magic Mirror reveals her sisters' inner ugliness: one shows up as an unpreposessing older woman, the other as a clothed monkey.
  • Missing Mom: As in most retellings, Belle and her siblings have no mother.
  • Ominous Fog: The Beast's mansion is wreathed in fog when Belle's father arrives there early in the film.
  • Onion Tears: The sisters do this to fake being sad when Belle has to go back to the Beast following her one-week furlough.
  • Opening Scroll:
    "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 the beast shame when a young maiden takes up residence in his home. They believe a thousand other simple things. I ask 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...'"-Jean Cocteau
  • Percussive Therapy: Implied. The Beast is in the habit of slaying deer, after which his hands give off smoke. The night after Belle tells him about Avenant's marriage proposal, he returns to the castle smokier than usual and covered in blood, suggesting an exceptionally vigorous hunt.
  • Pivotal Wake-up: A version without the usual sinister connotations occurs during the Beast's transformation at the end.
  • Prince Charming Wannabe: Avenant thinks that he's the Prince Charming who will whisk Belle away from her life of drudgery, but she prefers the Beast.
  • Redubbing: Minimalist composer Philip Glass wrote an entire opera that is meant to replace the soundtrack of the film, with the singers providing the voices for the characters on screen. It's available as an extra on several editions of the DVD.
  • Regal Ruff: Form part of Belle's sisters' outfits.
  • Related in the Adaptation: In Villeneuve's original version of the fairy tale, the heroine was the daughter of a king and a good fairy. A wicked fairy had tried to murder the heroine so she could marry her father and the heroine was put in the place of the merchant's deceased daughter to protect her. In this version, like in most retellings, she's the merchant's biological daughter.
  • Rich Bitch: Felicity and Adelaide, the two sisters. Not even actually being poor changes their behavior any.
  • Significant Double Casting: Avenant and the Beast's prince form are both played by the same actor, emphasizing their Swapped Roles at the end of the film.
  • Step Servant: Even before their father becomes poor, Belle is shown slaving away while her sisters and brother do nothing, without explanation. After Belle comes back from Beast's castle, her sisters initially treat her fairly out of self-serving interest, but after they convince her to stay they start abusing her verbally again and pushing back on her the chores they were forced to do in her absence.
  • Symbolism: Before she leaves to reunite with her family for a week, the Beast gifts Belle a golden key to Diane's Pavillion, as a token of trust that she shall keep her promise and return. When the sisters convince Belle to stay a little longer, one of them steals the golden key from off Belle's dresser, as though marking the instant she lost the Beast's trust in her. She acts rather horrified at realizing she's lost the key, signifying her understanding of how badly she's broken her promise to the Beast.
  • Teleporter Accident: A very minor case. The first time Belle teleports using the Beast's glove, she arrives with her back stuck to a wall and her feet about eighteen inches above the ground. The wall releases her unharmed, but the next time she tries to teleport, she lies down first.
  • Too Important to Walk: Belle's sisters are carried around on sedan chairs, while she serves her father as a maid. Why this is, isn't really explained.
  • Touch of the Monster: Belle is carried back to her room after she faints.
  • Ugly Hero, Good-Looking Villain: The Beast and Avenant.
  • Undying Loyalty: Some time after she returned home, Avenant tries to gaslight Belle into thinking the Beast has her under a spell and offers to take her away from both the Beast and her awful sisters if only she would tell him how to find the Beast's castle. Not once does Belle ever speak one word of how to find her beloved's home.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Is Ludovic joining Belle and the rest of their family? If so, will he live in luxury like their father, or be punished to live as a servant like his other two sisters?
  • Would Hit a Girl: Avenant slaps one of the sisters when she insults him.
  • Youngest Child Wins: Although not the youngest child (it is implied that Ludovic is the youngest because of the actor being younger), Belle is the youngest sister.