Friday, March 20, 2015

Props: La belle et la bête

Jean Cocteau's 1946 masterpiece (based on Beaumont's famous story) incorporates many traditional fairy tale elements that can easily be recognized in his directorial choices. I thought that it would be useful to take a look at the earliest filmed version of this fable that influenced so many subsequent retellings, especially seeing as how just last year a French-German version came out and already a new Disney adaptation is slotted for 2016. Without further ado, let's take a look at the phenomenal props in La belle et la bête.

Belle's father, the merchant, first arrives at the castle.
The bracket attaching the candelabra to the wall is actually an actor's arm.

Though the idea of servants being reduced to nothing more
than a pair of hands was borrowed from La Chatte Blanche,

it was their visual representation in this film that had a direct impact
on the animated Disney version that came out forty-five years later.

Note the human heads as accent pieces on the fireplace.
How is this dude maintaining his composure, i.e.,

not totally freaked out by ANIMATE STONE PEOPLE?

Their arms must have gotten really tired.
It was worth it for the effect, though. The set looks surreal.

Carved human likenesses are everywhere throughout the castle,
as if to mock The Beast's curse. Can't have been too comfortable for Belle, either.

"Hey guuurl, I heard you like magical roses..."
Heads that turn and eyes that watch the inhabitants of
the castle lend a touch of otherworldliness to the film.

Nature has a large role in many fairy tales.
Here, vines cover the walls of Belle's bedroom;
a profound image which helps to create a magical atmosphere.

This is a remarkable foreign film, listed as one of the top twenty films of the 1940s. Josette Day as Belle and Jean Marais as The Beast/The Prince/Avenant instilled their roles with equal amounts fantasy and believability. According to Bio, Cocteau is revered as "one of the most influential creative figures in the Parisian avant-garde," and La belle et la bête is one of his most-loved works. Watch it yourself to find out why.

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