Friday, August 09, 2013
Cocteau's La Belle et la Bête, 1946
Very operatic. Very.
Don't know why, but something stirred in me with these scenes other than just the fact that I want live-arm sconces in my palatial abode: this is very stagey and romantic in so many of the best ways.* The live-arm sconces are rather book-endish in a negative fashion with another iconic hallway of filmdom: in The Wizard of Oz(1939), the doorman is actually the wizard himself- the Wizard is either an obsessive freak who can't/won't trust minions to do his bidding, or they all went on strike due to his tyrannical ways, and now he has to do everything himself. Cocteau's Beast strikes a brilliant contrast by displaying organic light fixtures devoted solely to imparting perfect lighting on the ingénue. Lucky broad! Poor bored workaday saps! Or maybe the Beast just grew the beauty-seeking candelabrae in a borosilicate dish in a lab? Maybe they are whole people behind the wall? Maybe not? Maybe someone wealthy and powerful is supported by an army of lackeys with their nuts in a vise behind a wall where they are faceless, their pain unmeasured, unsung and unremarkable, always entering via the servants' quarters at the back? My vote is for remotely sentient arms grown in a dish in a lab.
I will always feel something is lost for the abandonment of black-and-white film: the duochrome gives the suggestion of unreality that I think we really seek in film-- something that didn't/wouldn't/couldn't/shouldn't happen. We can explore hideous possibilities from within the safe confines of a plush theatre seat, mindlessly munching away at buttered banged grains**. The black and white makes it safer to observe at remove. Wim Wenders' Wings Of Desire is the pinnacle of filmdom for me for its clever use of color/B&W-- poetic, bracing and life-affirming in a way to which few films aspire.
Very lame that I can't remember which (but I'm blaming the Zinfandel)-- either Plato or Socrates said that concepts we would find untenable in reality are safely explored within the confines of the theatre. We don't have to hate an author for the death of a beloved hero in a novel. Sometimes it's beautiful to observe an idea in action which is displayed in fine form to beautiful effect. I love this scene from Jean Cocteau's Beauty and The Beast. [Then again, I love that crazy bitch torturing James Caan in Misery.]
I believe anyone who loves and who is loved sees himself as one or the other of the ubiquitous characters of this story at one time or another. "How can he/she love me? I'm a beast." "How can I love him/her: he/she is a beast?" Of course, we can call it a fiction, but it's all true. Ultimately, we are happiest who figure out what utter calisthenics of bullshitlery it is even to wonder such things. What is, is. Best to enjoy the very pretty moments, beautiful staging and idealized billowing diaphanous drapes lovingly licking at the heroine in useless hallways with live-action arm sconces.
*I always loved the moments before the audience is allowed into the theatre when the stage techs go out with spray bottles and mist the stage so that dust doesn't come billowing up as the players tread the boards. Must always preserve the visual spectacle. Ah, the opera!
**Discworldese for popcorn
I lurveses you, Terry Pratchett. I lurveses you so hard.