Today, in our final segment on this topic, we soldier on with notations about the movies on British Film Institute’s list of 50 films recommended to see before turning the age of 14.

Pictures from the 1940s include It’s a Wonderful Life, Britain’s Oliver Twist, Italy’s The Bicycle Thief, and France’s Beauty and the Beast.

We covered The Bicycle Thief earlier in the week.  Who can escape the Frank Capra classic (and who would want to)?  Oliver Twist is reasonably familiar but the final designation, Beauty and the Beast, may not be.

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Frankly, the 1946 movie poses tough sledding for today’s under-14, digital device set.  It’s considered a French classic from that supremely protean cultural figure of the time, Jean Cocteau (poet, filmmaker, visual artisan, essayist, gay man-about-town and suspected German collaborator during World War II; he died in 1963 at the age of 74).

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As British critic David Thomson writes: Cocteau is a vital link between the avant garde and the underground….His overwrought cult of the self, as well as the homosecxual cluster that attended him, served to cut him off from real human material.

In comparing Cocteau to Orson Wells, Thomson adds, Welles was a man of the theater, Cocteau of theatricality. 

Be that as it may, Cocteau was at home telling visual fairy tales as he did with Beauty and the Beast, based on a 1757 romantic fantasy about a self-sacrificing daughter devoted to her father, who (the father) enrages the Beast by picking a rose from the Beast’s garden (don’t ask). Of course, a liaison between the Beauty and the Beast ensues (the film’s French title is La Belle et La Bete). Josette Day portrays the former, Jean Marais the latter.

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How this all will play at home before an antsy pre-adolescent, immersed in several electronic devices, is anyone’s guess.  Give it a try.  (No guarantees from the British Film Institute, however.)



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