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The Only One You Need
Beauty & the Beast
dir. Jean Cocteau

There hasn't been a better filmed version of "Beauty & the Beast" either before or since this film. ((I know Disney did a film with the same title, but it wasn't the real story.))

Most people ought to know the story -- the well-to-do merchant who loses everything, his one last chance to recoup that falls through, the journey through the spooky forest that leads to the magic castle, the rose the merchant picks for his daughter, the angry Beast who demands the merchant's life, Beauty's return to the Beast's castle in her father's place, ... and so on.

But you really don't KNOW the story till you see this film and let Cocteau make it clear for you.

Done on an obviously shoe-string budget, brilliantly applied, with camera-work and incredibly simple but effective "special effects" that truly enhance the story without calling undo attention to their own cleverness, with beautiful costume and makeup designs adding even more, this film is simply a visual treat.

Examples of the simple-but-effective effects: on Beauty's return to her father's home her appearance in her room is visually amazing: the actress stepped backward (off a stool concealed by her gown) through a paper "wall"... and they ran the film backward.  Another use of backward filming is the merchant's first walk through the castle, with the magical human-arm candelabra that swing away form the walls and light - he walked backward along the hallway set, where all of the candles were already burning, and as he passed each one, the person holding that sconce turned their arm against the wall and a jet of air extinguished the candles, creating the effect seen in the film.

[This film is/was good enough that when the cable "Faerie Tale Theatre" series did "B&B", they basically did a 60-minute remake in color of this film, including most of the visual touches, especially the Beast's makeup.]

Beautiful, dreamlike and entrancing.

(Additionally, for further appreciation of the nuances of the story, one perhaps should read Robin McKinley's two retellings, "Beauty" and "Rose Daughter" - read "Beauty" first, or if you only read one, make it that one.)