Monday, 4 November 2013

Le Bélle et Le Bette Film Review

Jean Cocteau, as well as being a filmmaker, was also a poet, dramatist, designer and artist- this is all easy to see throughout his 1946 original adaptation, Le Belle et le Bête. He said, “The only jurisdiction to which a film should be subject concerns its style and its expressive power. The rest is a mystery and will always remain so.” (Cocteau) implying how film should be led by it’s emotive visual style. Romance is a strong theme throughout the film, and this is shown very visually through the soft, pre-Raphaelite style of Belle herself and the drapery in her clothing and bedroom at the Beast’s châteaux. (fig 1)(fig2)
(fig 1)  Still from Le Belle et le Bette 
(fig 2) Ophelia

Costume and Décor designer Christian Bérard was perfect for the film.  “In Bérard, Cocteau had found a new fellow master of fantasy, an antimodern, neobaroque successor” (Steegmuller). Having a background in fashion design and fashion illustration, his designs and concept art had unique elements to them, having been done in chalk and gauche on black paper (fig 3).

(fig 3) Concept Art for Le Belle et Le Bette
Cocteau saw how unique Bérnard’s work was and tried to keep as close to it as possible in the actual film. Many scenes still have that ‘white on black’ feel, such as scenes which take part in the hallway with the arm candelabrum, and in the dining room. This really draws the viewer’s attention to the key elements of the scenes. It gives the film a dark mysery, rarely being able to see the floor or walls (fig 4)(fig 5)

(fig 4 & 5) Stills from Le Bette et Le Belle
It is clear that a lot of thought has gone into each element of the film, with the costumes handmade in the fashion house of Lanvin, making it such a large influence on Avant Gard cinema today. Cocteau really wanted to push the idea of something out of the ordinary happening, the film itself starting with a statement telling viewers to view the film with a child like open mind. Cocteau said, of his cinematographer Henri Alekan, "I'm pushing Alekan in precisely the opposite direction from what fools think is poetic," showing how much Cocteau was trying to fight convention. It is this persistence to not conform that has given the film, and Cocteau himself such an influential status.


(fig 1) Still from Le Belle et le Bête

(fig 2) Ophelia, Arthur Hughes (1865)

Steegmuller, F, (1991), On the Making of Beauty and the Beast

(fig 3) Concept Art by Christian Bérard (1946)

(fig 4) Still from Le Belle et le Béte

(fig 5) Still from Le Belle et le Béte


  1. Hi Livi,

    A couple of points in regard to this review - firstly, a good linking of the concept art to the actual production... :)
    As far as labelling your images, put the fig 1, fig 2 etc by the actual picture, just to keep it nice and clear. It would also be a good idea to make sure you link all the images in to the text - at the moment, you have a somewhat random image of Ophelia in there, but have not specifically said what this refers to (always assume your reader knows nothing!)

    Keep your image list separate from your text bibliography, and double-check the conventions for creating the image list here - it is quite specific about what is required, and in what order.

    You have a couple of issues with your referencing; some of your quotes do not have the date after them, and one is not referenced at all. This could be because what you have here, is 'secondary referencing', ie you have taken a quote by Coctaeu, but it is quoted in someone else's piece. It is always best to try and go to the primary source if you can, but if not, this is how the referencing guide says you should do it...

    Secondary referencing (a quotation found in a text not by the author of the text).

    If you can't find the original source, you need to reference the author who is included in your bibliography, and also the author of the original quotation.

    In the text, any of these formats is acceptable:

    'There is no power relation without the correlative constitution of a field of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presuppose and constitute at the same time power relations.'(Foucault 1978, cited in Sheridan, 1980:138)


    Foucault (1978) argues that 'there is no power relation without the correlative constitution of a field of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presuppose and constitute at the same time power relations.' (Sheridan, 1980:138)

    In your bibliography it is the author of the book that needs to be included, in this case:

    Sheridan, Alan (1980) Michel Foucault: The Will to Truth. London: Tavistock Publications Ltd.

    So in your case, you have Cocteau quoted in a piece by Josefina García Pullés in 2011, with the date that Cocteau said what he said unknown, so your reference in the text would look like this -
    (Cocteau, s.d., cited in Pullés, 2011)

    Your bibliography would then be listed under Pullés, J.G. , with the details of the website or publication you found the material.
    Similarly, the quote about the cinematographer - that comes from a piece by Derek Malcolm, in the Guardian, so it would be (Cocteau, 1946, cited in Malcolm, D. 1999)

    Does that make sense??!

  2. Ah right ok :) i'll get it right one week!