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La Belle et la Bête(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 La Belle et la Bête and the La Belle et la Bête Blu-ray release, see La Belle et la Bête Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on October 23, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Directors: Jean Cocteau, René Clément
Writer: Jean Cocteau
Starring: Jean Marais, Josette Day, Mila Parély, Nane Germon, Michel Auclair, Raoul Marco
» See full cast & crew
La Belle et la Bête Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, October 23, 2013
Jean Cocteau's "La Belle et la Bete" a.k.a "Beauty and the Beast" (1946) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of SNC/M6 Group and La Cinémathèque française. The supplemental features on this release include original trailers; delete scene and alternate audio clips; text-format production notes; two new documentaries; and more. The release also arrives with a beautiful 36-page illustrated booklet with notes on the film and the new 4K restoration. In French, with optional French SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-Free.
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).
La Belle et la Bête Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Jean Cocteau's La Belle et la Bete arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of SNC/M6 Group and La Cinémathèque française.
This new French Blu-ray release of La Belle et la Bete uses a brand new high-definition transfer struck from a new 4K restoration of the film which was introduced at Cannes Classics earlier this year. Needless to say, the technical presentation has very little in common with Criterion's presentation of this classic French film in the United States. Generally speaking, the film looks marginally darker. This becomes quite obvious during the footage from the castle. (Compare screencapture #12 with screencapture #14 from our review of the Criterion release). However, clarity is frequently better. As a result, there are parts of the film that are darker but clearer. Elsewhere, however, the elevated brightness levels on the Criterion release makes it easier to see more. Definition is clearly superior. Rather predictably for a high-definition transfer using as a foundation a new 4K restoration, the grain also looks far more refined. Naturally, many well-lit close-ups look quite impressive (see screencaptures #2 and 14). Furthermore, there are no traces of problematic sharpening corrections. Also, there are no traces of damaging filtering corrections. There are some minor density fluctuations which appear to have been inherited, but the high-definition transfer is indeed free of the type of compromising digital corrections we have seen recently on various Blu-ray releases of big-budget French restorations. Lastly, there are a few minor brightness fluctuations that I noticed during the second half of the film where the whites appear slightly pushed up, but their presence is not distracting (see scrreencapture #17). Also, there are no large cuts, debris, damage marks, or stains. All in all, I think that this is the most successful restoration and presentation of a classic French film to come out of France in quite some time. (Note: This is a Region-Free Blu-ray release. Therefore, you will be able to play it on your PS3 or SA regardless of your geographical location. For the record, there is no problematic PAL or 1080/50i content preceding the disc's main menu).
La Belle et la Bête Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray release: French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. For the record, the French distributors have provided optional French SDH subtitles for the main feature (color format).
The lossless track is very strong. Georges Auric's dramatic orchestral score has surprisingly good depth, while the dialog is very effectively rebalanced. In fact, I did some comparisons with the Criterion release and it appears that some specific improvements were made on the French release to further stabilize the audio. For the record, there are no audio dropouts or distortions to report in this review.
La Belle et la Bête Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
La Belle et la Bête Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
This new release of Jean Cocteau's legendary La Belle et la Bete is without a doubt the most convincing release of a restored classic French film to come out of France in quite some time. After a number of rather disappointing presentations of big-budget restorations, French speakers will be pleased to know that SNC/M6 Group and La Cinémathèque française's restoration and Blu-ray presentation of this classic film looks quite beautiful. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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La Belle et la Bête Blu-ray, News and Updates
• La Belle et la Bête 4K Restoration Trailer - October 7, 2013
The British Film Institute has released a new trailer for the recent 4K restoration of Jean Cocteau's legendary classic film La Belle et la Bete a.k.a Beauty and the Beast (1946), starring Jean Marais, Josette Day, and Mila Parély. The new 4K restoration will ...
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