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Beauty and the Beast

(La belle et la bête)
France 1946. Dir: Jean Cocteau. 93 min. 35mm

NEW 35mm PRINT | 70th ANNIVERSARY | Sumptuous, surreal, and thoroughly enchanting, Jean Cocteau’s remarkable retelling of Madame Leprince de Beaumont’s famed 18th-century story is one of the masterpieces of fantastic cinema. Pauline Kael called it “perhaps the most sensuously elegant of all filmed fairy tales.” Jean Marais, in extraordinary cat-like make-up, is the frightful, castle-dwelling Beast; Josette Day is delicate Beauty, whose love transforms monster into man. The film’s virtuoso visual style draws upon classic Dutch painting, the work of Vermeer in particular, as well as the 19th-century illustrations of Gustave Doré. The black-and-white cinematography, by veteran Henri Alekan (Wings of Desire), is stunning; the art direction by Christian Bérard, who also designed the costumes, is pure magic. “Cocteau’s fairy tale set standards in fantasy that few other filmmakers have reached” (Tom Milne, Time Out).


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