Fresh off the Nazi Occupation of France, director Jean Cocteau put together a surreal and masterful interpretation of the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast.
The whole movie feels like you are watching somebody else’s dream occur before your eyes. I don’t mean their vision or what they desire when I say dream. I mean an actual dream somebody would have while they slept.

It has a lot of similarities to the Disney animated version in regards to the plot, but that’s about it (both female protagonists are also named Belle). Belle’s father stumbles upon the Beast’s castle and is imprisoned. He must have a daughter take his place to go free. Belle agrees. She lives with the Beast and doesn’t like him at first but by the end of the movie the curse is broken and they live happily ever after. She also has a  human love interest that’s similar to Gaston in that wants to kill the Beast.
The details are drastically different though and not like in a dream not everything is explained or makes sense completely. For instance, there is an enchanted greenhouse at the castle filled with magical items that turn any trespassers into Beasts. Why? How? It doesn’t matter and is never explained.

The coolest things in the movie revolve around the Beast’s castle itself and the enchanted items he possesses. The exteriors were all filmed on location at Château de Raray in Senlis, Oise, France which provides some great atmosphere because of the detailed stonemasonry work in this location. On the flip side, the interiors to the castle are very minimal but bold and memorable. A great example of this is there are sentient human arms holding candelabras coming out of the walls and everywhere is mainly darkness. It really enhances the dreaminess that the movie strives for.
Another thing I really enjoyed was the acting, especially Josette Day, who plays Belle. Her performance really relies on a silent movie style of acting with a lot of expression and theatrics which suits the movie, which isn’t heavy on dialogue for a good portion of the runtime.

The makeup job on the Beast (Jean Marais) is also noteworthy in its excellence. It’s as good as anything Hollywood was putting out at the time, probably better than something like The Wolf Man, as the character is able to move his mouth and speak naturally. The one thing that was jarring to me was the voice of Marais, which was more high pitched than I was expecting, but I got used to it.
Overall, this was a fantastic movie that had a lot of creativity and style. It probably isn’t for everybody, but if you are open to foreign movies with silent characteristics I can’t recommend it enough.