Reissued in a beautiful 4K digital restoration, Jean Cocteau’s 1946 film remains a most seductive vision of a classic Gothic romance. Conjuring pure magic from the simplest of effects, the film’s Beast makeup is so perfectly detailed that you forget that those longing eyes staring out from it belong to a man. It’s not exactly a film for children, and yet it’s one generations of children have enjoyed.
“Jean Cocteau’s first full-length movie is perhaps the most sensuously elegant of all filmed fairy tales. As a child escapes from everyday life to the magic of a storybook, so, in the film, Beauty’s farm, with its Vermeer simplicity, fades in intensity as we are caught up in the Gustave Doré extravagance of the Beast’s enchanted landscape. In Christian Bérard’s makeup, Jean Marais is a magnificent Beast; Beauty’s sacrifice to him holds no more horror than a satisfying romantic fantasy should have. The transformation of the Beast into Prince Charming is ambiguous – what we have gained cannot quite take the place of what we have lost. When shown the film Greta Garbo is reported to have said at the end, ‘Give me back my Beast.’” — Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies