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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.


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This film provides examples of:

  • Artistic Title: The opening credits appear written on a blackboard, then erased.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 children; two of the girls are stuck-up and cruel; the son is a feckless wastrel...and then there's Belle.
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  • Extreme Doormat: Belle.
  • Fainting: Belle faints when she meets the Beast.
  • 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.
  • The Ingenue: Belle
  • 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.
  • Mind Screw: The ending.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 put in the place of the merchant's deceased daughter to protect her.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Touch of the Monster: Belle is carried back to her room after she faints.
  • Ugly Hero, Good-Looking Villain: The Beast and Avenant.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Is Ludovic joining Belle and the rest of their family?
  • 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.

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