La belle et la bête (Beauty and the Beast). 1946. France. Written and directed by Jean Cocteau. Based on a story by Mme. Leprince de Beaumont. With Jean Marais, Josette Day. 35mm. In French; English subtitles. 93 min.
A merchant loses his way in a darkened wood and stumbles upon an enchanted castle, but when he dares to pick a rose from its garden he is confronted by the monstrous proprietor, who demands his death as punishment for the theft. To save the man’s life, his selfless daughter volunteers to join the beast in its palace, where, over time, she begins to discover a surprising tenderness hidden beneath her captor’s hideous visage. Cocteau’s eye for otherworldly scenarios found an ideal platform in this classic fairy tale; the film’s romantic aura, amplified by ingenious visual effects, has lost none of its radiance. Under the auspices of Lincoln Kirstein and George Balanchine’s Ballet Society, the American premiere of Beauty and the Beast was held at MoMA on November 20, 1947.