Before Disney turned Beauty and the Beast
into a cartoon there was Jean Cocteau's magical live action adaptation, La Belle et la Bete
. Based on the famous French fairy tale written by Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont and published in 1757, the film serves up the most magnificent and romantic Beast in Jean Marias. Although he’s supposed to be a terrifying creature, the make up effects are wonderfully humane, and tinged with a sadness that's ultimately appealing. Cocteau, a poet and painter, brings a sense of visual poetry to the screen. Insisting that "poetry is precision," Cocteau avoids the soft focus fuzziness of most fantasy films to deliver something vivid and sharp in all its details. It’s also rapturously beautiful. His simple yet elegant effects employ real actors as part of the castle’s ornate décor so that arms hold out candles to light Belle’s way. In his prologue he asks us to approach the film like a child, but the request is unnecessary -- he draws the child out of us and makes us stare up in wonder and delight at the world he has creates. Bonus Pick:
A difficult to find but visually breathtaking film from the Czech Republic, Wild Flowers
(2000). A series of tales loosely strung together by folklore and themes, this film conveys the danger and beauty of traditional fairy tales. Keep your eyes open for this one.