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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • French PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Composer Philip Glass's opera La Belle et la BÍte, presented as an alternate soundtrack (in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray edition)
  • Two commentaries: one by film historian Arthur Knight and one by writer and cultural historian Sir Christopher Frayling
  • Screening at the Majestic, a 1995 documentary featuring interviews with cast and crew
  • Interview with cinematographer Henri Alekan
  • Rare behind-the-scenes photos and publicity stills
  • Film restoration demonstration
  • Original trailer, directed and narrated by director Jean Cocteau, plus restoration trailer from 1995

Beauty and the Beast

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Jean Cocteau
Starring: Jean Marais, Josette Day, , Nane Germon, Michel Auclair, Raoul Marco,
1946 | 93 Minutes | Licensor: SNC

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #6
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: July 19, 2011
Review Date: July 19, 2011

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SYNOPSIS

The sublime adaptation by Jean Cocteau of Mme. Leprince de Beaumont's fairy-tale masterpiece-in which the true love of a beautiful girl melts the heart of a feral but gentle beast-is a landmark feat of motion picture fantasy, with unforgettably romantic performances by Jean Marais and Josette Day. The spectacular visions of enchantment, desire, and death in Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et la BÍte) have become timeless icons of cinematic wonder.

Forum members rate this film 8.8/10

 

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Jean Cocteauís Beauty and the Beast makes its Blu-ray debut from Criterion in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this dual-layer disc in a high-def 1080p/24hz digital transfer.

Criterionís original DVD for the film, ported from the laserdisc, featured one of their worst video presentations. In 2003 that was remedied with a new DVD edition that used a ďnewerĒ restoration and the improvement was vast. Although Iíve seen the new DVD I donít own it so I canít make a direct comparison but from what I recall the Blu-ray looks to use the same high-definition transfer used for the basis of that disc. The Blu-ray certainly offers a more pleasing, filmic look in comparison to either DVD, but the upgrade isnít as impressive as I would have thought. Limiting the presentation is the general look of the film, Cocteau using plenty of soft focus along with the fact that the film is still in fairly crummy shape. Again this looks leaps and bounds better than Criterionís original DVD, which could still make oneís eyes bleed, but there are still scratches present along with other marks and tram lines. Definition is fine but the finer details never pop and tend to blend in with everything else, but this is a mix of problems with the source materials and the fair amount of use of the soft focus by Cocteau.

But the digital transfer is clean and I couldnít detect any sort of problem along these lines. Contrast is also much better but blacks are a little disappointing overall, looking far lighter than I would have hoped. In the end itís improvement for sure but probably not as vast as one as I was probably expecting.

7/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The lossless mono track is about as fair as one would probably expect. It lacks fidelity, sounds a bit flat, and has moments of harshness. Dialogue sounds clean enough and is easy to hear. But unlike the original DVD background noise has been pretty much removed and I didnít detect any pops or cracks.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

All supplements from the reissue DVD seem to have made it over starting with two audio commentaries, one by film scholar Arthur Knight and the other by writer and cultural historian Sir Christopher Frayling. The Knight track appeared on the original DVD as well, recorded originally for the laserdisc edition in 1991. Itís a fine enough track featuring Knight talking about the look of the film, the effects, the story, and itís place as a piece of art. He also refers to Cocteauís production diary, reading segments from it. It covers a vast amount of details but Knight is unfortunately a bit dry, sounding as though he is reading from notes.

Fraylingís track works a little better simply because it moves at a more brisk pace and doesnít feel to be scripted in anyway. He covers some of the same aspects but offers a bit more in the way of production history, some of the problems it faced, a look at the original tale, and Cocteauís work overall. Like Knightís itís a scholarly track but it flows quite a bit better and of the two I prefer this one.

Criterion next includes Philip Glassís Opera, which is an alternate audio track that plays over the film. As I understand it the film would be screened silently while the opera would be performed or played over it. The opera is in French but Criterion does include English subtitle translations. Itís an interesting idea and presentation, with the singing dubbing over the actual film dialogue, but in the end I canít say I cared all that much for it, finding it actually takes away from any impact the film had, despite some interesting things within it. The track is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround and does sound marvelous. Criterion also includes notes by Glass in the booklet.

Moving on we next get a documentary called Screening at the Majestic, the Majestic being the theater where Cocteau watched the dailies for the film. The 27-minute feature gathers interviews with cinematographer Henri Alekan, and actors Jean Marais and Mila Parely. Revisiting some of the locations used in the film the cast and crew recall the filming and Cocteauís work into the script. There are details about the effects with some minor explanations as to how they were accomplished, with a few sketches made during the production. There are a few surprises from the doc, specifically where some of the castle portions were shot. Though a lot of the Beastís castle was filmed on sets, exterior shots were filmed in Raray Park. Whatís so odd about this is how in the film it looks like a completely magical, almost surreal place, yet when we see it as it is now (and apparently it wasnít that different then) itís one of the least magical places I can imagine. Finishing off the doc thereís talk about the costumes and sets, and Alekan talks a lot about the lighting and the influences of certain paintings. Itís short but itís a great doc and seeing Marais and Parely watching a portion of the film together is a bit of a treat.

Up next we get a 9-minute interview with cinematographer Henri Alekman from a 1995 television program. He first starts with how he came to work on the film and then moves on to talking over a scene from the film, explaining how it was set up and done. He then closes with how the field has progressed in 50 years, newer technologies making things far easier to do now than they were then. Unfortunately brief but itís great to get him to at least break down a couple moments from the film and talk a little about his profession.

Secrets Prefessionels: TÍte ŗ TÍte is a 9-minute segment from a 1964 television program featuring make-up artist Hagop Arakelian. Here he gives a demonstration on how he applies general make-up to hide the imperfections the camera can pick up. He then gives a demonstration on how he can significantly change a subjectís face using prosthetics and other little tricks. Thereís a small bit where he talks about the make-up for Beauty and the Beast but this portion is brief. Despite this itís still worth viewing.

Criterion then closes off the release with a few minor additions starting with the filmís original 4-minute theatrical trailer, a newer restoration trailer, a restoration demonstration running 4-minutes (basically explaining how the filmís audio and video were restored with plenty of before-and-afters), and then a stills gallery with over 100 photos, including some of Marais getting his make-up applied and a few theatrical posters. The booklet includes an essay by Geoffrey OíBrien followed by a note by Cocteau which appeared in the filmís 1947 press book. Thereís also an excerpt from Francis Steegmullerís biography on Cocteau about the making of Beauty and the Beast, and then there is a note on the Philip Glass opera by the composer himself.

The original 1998 DVD also presented a translated version of the fable (as an on-disc feature) and then a short episode from a 1970ís television program called Cinematic Eye about the film. The latter one not being carried over isnít too big a problem as the new features better it but Iím surprised Criterion never ported over the fable translation.

Still, despite those losses, itís a pretty well-rounded edition, filled with a wealth of information.

8/10

CLOSING

Limitations of the source materials do hold the presentation back but it still delivers a more film like experience than any of Criterionís previous DVD editions. Nothing new has been added to the supplements but theyíre still a strong collection worth going through.


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