Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Belle et la Bête, La

(vt Beauty and the Beast) French movie (1946). Discina. Pr André Paulvé. Dir Jean Cocteau. Spfx René Clément. Screenplay Cocteau. Based on the version of the tale by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont. Starring Marcel André (Merchant), Michel Auclair (Ludovic), Josette Day (Belle), Nane Germon (Adelaide), Jean Marais (Avenant/La Bête/Prince), Raoul Marco (Moneylender), Mila Parély (Félicie). 100 mins (cut to 96 and 92 mins UK, 87 mins US). B/w.

Superficially LBELB seems a straightforward retelling of the Beauty and the Beast legend, and a surprisingly pacy one, yet Cocteau is at pains to draw our attention to the subtext. It is a movie that pulsates with sex: La Bête's (Beast's) lust is explicit, and Belle's becomes almost as obvious. The moral spelled out by La Bête at the close ("Love may make a beast of man – love may also make an ugly man handsome") is trite enough, yet the physical exchange of forms between himself and Avenant (a handsome wastrel whom Belle once loved) adds a new level of meaning: Avenant and La Bête are, refracted through Belle's Perception, identified; both are Man rather than individual men. The kingdom to which La Bête flies Belle after his Transformation is a kingdom of the heart.

In 1994 the composer Philip Glass presented an operatic version of LBELB, in which live musicians and singers perform in synchrony with the projected movie. Glass had earlier, in 1993, staged an opera using as libretto the script of Cocteau's other great masterpiece, Orphée (1949), and planned to present a balletic interpretation of Les Enfants Terribles (1950) in 1995. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.