Viewer’s Guide to La Belle et la Bête (1946), FAQ

Q: Sorry, no French movies. I’ve had bad experiences with French movies.
A: Relax, it’s Beauty and the Beast. You love Beauty and the Beast.

Q: In black and white? From the olden days when there was no such thing as CGI?
A: Yes, when there were such things as imagination and Jean Cocteau. Besides, the world didn’t magically become a magical place with the advent of modern film technology. Did Shakespeare’s vision rely on computers? Charlotte Brontë’s?

Q: I know the story. It’s about seeing with the eyes of love, check. Why watch it again?
A: Oh I don’t know, maybe because IT’S AWESOME! Plus this version has its own delicious details, trust me. And it’s not just about seeing with the eyes of love. It’s also about embracing enchantment, and having the courage to live your own life, and —

Q: Yes, but —
A: But what? Why are you being so difficult about this?

Q: It’s a romance. Romance is not the stuff of serious minds.
A: Wha — serious minds? Seriously?? Whence this drivel? Shall we discuss what Shakespeare and Brontë did with the tropes of romance? Didn’t they have serious minds? And didn’t their serious minds know how to relax and have fun too? Wait a second — are you afraid of what people will think if you talk about a romance? If so, you really need to watch this movie. You’ll see what happens when you care too much about what people think. You lose the key to the treasure house.

Q: I’m not afraid of what people think!
A: Prove it. Put the disc in the computer and press play. Right now. NOW!

Q: Fine! Geez! Bossy Bessie… Wow, that is a hairy beast.
A: He’s a heads-up for the uninitiated, an advance memorandum that men can be disconcertingly furred. Like, all over.

Q: By that logic, men have claws too.
A: Or, claws can be illusory and cause illusory fear, when actually things are fine and wonderful.

Q: Is it illusory that the Beast holds Belle hostage?
A: It’s an image. Think of the Beast as the outer self, wounded and distorted by life in the world, and Belle as the inner self, the incorruptible soul. The outer self (Beast) mistakenly keeps the inner self (Belle) prisoner at first because it knows it needs the inner self to survive. Meanwhile the inner self is shocked by what the outer self has become but learns that the two of them are the same — Belle discovers her own beastliness as well as the Beast’s beauty. And then, Houston, we have the inner union! Yin and yang, heart and mind, light and shadow, together at last, glory glory all day long.

Q: Shhh, please! These subtitles are not going to read themselves.
A: (But it’s also a romance and love conquers all.)

Q: Did you see that? The Beast just called Belle “strange.” Isn’t he supposed to call her the sun in his heaven, or some such? Are you sure this thing is a romance?
A: “You are a strange girl, Belle,” he says, “a strange girl indeed.” Translation: she’s authentic, she’s her true self, she doesn’t conform. He sees who she is and that’s who he loves. What’s more romantic than that? Come on, admit it, you love this movie.

Q: I admit nothing. And I still say it’s about seeing with the eyes of love, check.
A: You’re absolutely right. It’s all about seeing with the eyes of love. Check.