• Julia Sumzina

10 facts about: La Belle et la Bête (1946)

Jean Cocteau was born on 5th July 131 years ago and today let's look at the interesting facts about one of the most famous his films, the classical La Belle et la Bête (1946).


The official film poster, Copyright SND


01. The film was shot in the post WWII period (August 27, 1945 – January 11, 1946), and the working conditions were not very comfortable. The team suffered from power cuts, power outages or the lack of studio light.


Photos: Copyright 1946 SNC (Groupe M6) / Comité Cocteau / G.R. Aldo; Copyright D.R.


02. The set designs and cinematography were intended to evoke the illustrations and engravings of Gustave Doré and, in the farmhouse scenes were based on the paintings of Jan Vermeer. The cinematography was performed by Henri Alekan. Christian Bérard and Lucien Carré covered production design. As mentioned in the DVD extras, the exteriors were shot in the Château de la Roche Courbon (Indre-et-Loire).


03. Cocteau entrusted the production of costumes to the house of Paquin and young Pierre Cardin, who happily embarked on this task.


The promo photo


04. In his work the director played the game of magic, symbolism, surrealism and psychoanalysis. The role of the Beast Jean Cocteau gave to an actor who was considered then as the most beautiful man in the world, Jean Marais. This one interprets a triple role: the Beast, the suitor of the Beauty (Avenant) and the Prince. In addition, there are also in the wall the arms of men who come out and carry candlesticks, as well as caryatids whose eyes move and smoke that exhales. Cocteau also placed talismans and enchanted gardens in the film.


05. At first, Jean Marais wanted to use a deer head, but decided against it because in La Chette blanche, the magical castle has a deer head as its door knocker. He also thought it would be linked to the myth of the Celtic god Cernunnos, the horned god. Also, they thought that the audience would think that the head of a deer would be ridiculous for a dangerous, ferocious beast. Finally they used Jean Marais' Alaskan Husky, Moulouk, to be the model of the Beast's face.


Film stills: Copyright 1946 SNC (Groupe M6) / Comité Cocteau / G.R. Aldo


06. The shooting of the film which started on August 27, 1945 had to be interrupted because Cocteau fell ill, suffering from diseases of allergic origin (impetigo, generalized eczema, furunculosis, giant urticaria, dermatitis, anthrax, lymphangitis, phlegmon ). Jean Marais' condition was also quite unpleasant: he suffered from the problems with his thigh, his mask causes him to have eczema on his face. Despite all problems the film was released on 29 October 1946 and was highly appreciated by critics and audience.



07. La Belle et la Bête is considered classic of world cinema, it gave the inspiration to a lot of various artists. For example, in 1994, composer Philip Glass created an opera version — also called La Belle et la Bête — one of a "Cocteau Trilogy" operas. In its initial incarnation the musicians and singers would perform the work on stage with a restored, newly subtitled copy of the film playing on a screen behind them.


08. Jacques Demy's 1970 film Donkey Skin is a musical farce adapted from Charles Perrault's fairy tale about a widowed king who wishes to marry his beautiful daughter. Demy pays homage to Cocteau in numerous references to Beauty and the Beast, including the casting of actor Jean Marais as the king. In one scene we can see, the king reading Cocteau's poem, "Ode à Picasso."


09. In 2013, Ethery Pagava created a ballet influenced by Cocteau's film on Maurice Ravel's music. Beauty was performed by Ana Pinto, the Beast was interpreted by Mikhaïl Avakov.


10. La Belle et la Bête (2014) Franco-German romantic fantasy film written by Christophe Gans and Sandra Vo-Anh and directed by Gans, with Léa Seydoux and Vincent Cassel as the main characters is mostly based on Cocteau's film and has a lot from it.


I personally would like to advice you to watch this very beautiful and mystic fairy tale, created by Jean Cocteau more than seventy years ago and to find something special for you in this amazing film.


Text: Julia Sumzina

Video: SND

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