The Criterion Critique: Beauty and the Beast (1946)
Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. Time for all good husbands, wives, boyfriends, and girlfriends to start making plans. Among the search for the perfect restaurant, box of candy, or whatever else your significant other may enjoy, might I suggest a beautiful cinematic retelling of one of the greatest classic stories of romance? The 1946 French film Beauty and the Beast is available as part of the Criterion Collection on Hulu Plus.
This full length film adheres more to the original story than the Disney movie we have all come to love, but it still puts its own spin on the tale. The story line of Belle’s family is developed to show a man and his children obsessed with wealth, but forever in debt. The good-hearted Belle is mistreated by her sisters because matters of social status do not concern her.
Far from being a spoiled prince with anger problems, this Beast is gentle and humble, consumed with shame at his appearance. The love story between him and Belle is not just one of seeing past external appearance, but also an expression of trust and loyalty.
Although this film is black and white and the special effects are outdated, it is — nevertheless — visually stunning. The costumes and sets are greatly detailed and the overall effect is that of the perfect fairy tale and romance. This film is perfect for a different sort of twist on a romantic movie night!