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Beauty and the Beast(1946)
Adélaïde, Belle, Félicie and Ludovic are young adult siblings who once lived in grandeur until their father's merchant ships were lost at sea. The family is now near ruin, but Adélaïde and Félicie nonetheless still squander away the family money on themselves and keeping beautiful, whereas Belle slaves around the house, doting on her father. Ludovic detests his two spoiled sisters, but is protective of Belle, especially with his friend Avenant, a handsome scoundrel who wants to marry Belle. Crossing the forest one dark and stormy evening, the father gets lost and takes refuge in a fantastical castle. Upon leaving, he steals a blossom off a rose bush, which Belle requested. The castle's resident, an angry beast, sentences him to one of two options for the theft of the rose: his own death, or that of one of his daughters.
For more about Beauty and the Beast and the Beauty and the Beast Blu-ray release, see Beauty and the Beast Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on July 21, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Jean Marais, Josette Day, Mila Parély, Nane Germon, Michel Auclair, Raoul Marco
Directors: Jean Cocteau, René Clément
» See full cast & crew
Beauty and the Beast Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, July 21, 2011
Jean Cocteau's "La Belle et la Bete" a.k.a "Beauty and the Beast" (1946) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original French theatrical trailer; restoration trailer; Philip Glass' opera; documentary film by Yves Kovacs; interview with Henri Alekan; excerpts from the French television show Secrets professionnels: Tete-a-tete; stills gallery; and two audio commentaries, one with film historian Arthur Knight and another with writer and cultural historian Sir Christopher Frayling. The disc also arrives with a 32-page illustrated booklet. In French, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
I believe that a lot people who would see French director Jean Cocteau's La Belle et la Bete for the first time will be surprised to discover that it is not a children's film. It is a delicate and provocative film with a universal message that was in fact meant for grown-ups. But it is so beautiful and pure that after it was released in 1946 it immediately captivated children's imagination and consequently earned its children's film status.
We live in a time when colorful seems to be considered by many to be the equivalent of beautiful. Disney's finely crafted Beauty and the Beast, for instance, dazzles with spectacular bursts of color, but it lacks the grace and elegance that make Cocteau's film so fascinating to behold. It is also devoid of that special sense of purity and passion that is so easy to detect once Belle meets the Beast.
Cocteau was a poet - more than he was a film director - and his films are very much a natural extension of his writings. They breathe with a certain literary rhythm, which the films of other directors from the era simply lack - this is where the earlier mentioned sense of purity comes from and this is why the beauty of his film has remained unmatched.
Before they meet, Belle (Josette Day, Here's Berlin, Coralie et Cie) and The Beast (Jean Marais, Orpheus, Fanfan la Tulipe) both lead miserable lives, but we see more of what Belle is going through than what The Beast is forced to endure. Her father (Marcel André, Thérèse Raquin) is a merchant who has lost his ships and is now being pressured by various creditors. He is despised by Belle's two sisters and constantly criticized by her brother (Michel Auclair, Funny Face, Justice est faite), a compulsive gambler. Belle is the only one in the family trying to help her father, but she is also the weakest one, which is why she constantly gets abused.
The Beast is rich and powerful but disillusioned. His world is also different - stylish but cold, missing a sense of perspective. His wealth has no value because there is no one he can share it with. He is cursed but he has also gradually evolved into a true monster and the terrible things he does no longer bother him.
Seeing how these two obviously hurt characters who very much suffer like real people do connect and then find happiness in their lives is an incredible experience. Yes, there is a bit of magic that helps them, but it is a type of magic that does not insult our intelligence; rather, it inspires us to believe in the power of love.
Cocteau did not use camera tricks to film the magical world of The Beast. Instead, he relied on legendary cinematographer Henri Alekan's (Topkapi, Wings of Desire) crisp and clear lensing and René Moulaert (the Angélique films) and Lucien Carré's (Les Misérables) brilliant costumes and decors.
The original soundtrack for the film was composed by the great Georges Auric (The Wages of Fear, Lola Montès). However, in 1994 Philip Glass also composed La Belle et la Bete, an opera for ensemble and film, which was synchronized with Cocteau's film. Nowadays, the film can be seen with both (Criterion's Blu-ray release of the film also contains the original soundtrack and the opera).
Beauty and the Beast Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Jean Cocteau's La Belle et la Bete arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"In 1995, as part of the celebration of a hundred years of French cinema, the restoration of Beauty and the Beast was initiated by Luxembourg's Centre national de l'audiovisuel, in association with CLT-UFA International. The restoration began with the original nitrate negative, which had suffered typical age-related deterioration. The negative was meticulously cleaned and many of its sprocket holes repaired so that it would roll eventually through the gate at 24 frames per second. Using a wetgate process, in which liquid runs over the emulsion, filling scratches and removing fine dust, the restorers made fine-grain positive elements that became the main source for the new restoration negative.
This high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from the 35mm restoration duplicate negative. Further restoration was done to manually remove thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker using MTI's DRS system and Pixel Farm's PFClean system, while Digital Vision's DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.
Telecine supervisor: Lee Kline.
Telecine colorist: Jean-Marc Moreau/Vdm, Paris."
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Criterion's Blu-ray release of La Belle et la Bete will be the definitive presentation of the film for years to come. Detail, clarity and color reproduction appear to have been optimized as best as possible, and further sizable improvements, at least in my opinion, are unlikely. There are still some image fluctuations, particularly during the second half of the film where certain sequences look softer, but you have to remember that the different visual textures are inherited (Jean Cocteau used several different kinds of film stock). Contrast levels look relatively consistent. Unlike the SDVD release, here a layer of grain is also very easy to see throughout the entire film. The light macroblocking has been eliminated as well. Lastly, there are still minor frame transition issues, as well as numerous tiny damage marks and even a few warps, but these are also present on the SDVD release. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Beauty and the Beast Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: French LPCM Mono and French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from an optical soundtrack print. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated workstation."
The French LPCM Mono track has pleasing depth and fluidity. Various stabilizations have also been performed, while background hiss and crackle removed. The dialog is crisp, clean, stable, and very easy to follow. The French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 has a substantially stronger dynamic amplitude. The strings in particular sound terrific. I prefer the original soundtrack, though, as it gives the film a somewhat darker feel.
Beauty and the Beast Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Beauty and the Beast Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
One of Cinema's greatest classics, Jean Cocteau's La Belle et la Bete, is given a very special treatment by Criterion. Considering its age and various inherited limitations, the film looks as good as it possibly can. Naturally, I expect this Blu-ray release to be the definitive presentation of La Belle et la Bete for years to come. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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