Monday, November 18, 2013

Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et la Bête).

Recently, To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Jean Cocteau’s death, The Cork French Film Festival presented his timeless classic Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et la Bête).
It is one of the finest  productions in movie history regarding this  beloved fairy tale. Marie -France’s lovely poster commemorating this movie with its soft coloring and charming attention to detail, inspired this month’s poem, The Restoration.

Where as Monsieur Cocteau’s film ends happily with the beast turned back into a prince and Beauty avowing her love for evermore, I have contemplated what happened before the dramatic change and what happened immediately after. The first part examines the beast’s reaction to fire on both an instinctive and emotional level. Like all species,  he fears the flame when it belongs to that of the hunters’ campfire. The very men who seek to hunt wild game and then savagely celebrate their kill by anointing their brows with blood and keeping the head for a trophy. Yet, his own hunger becomes fire, a yearning for fresh meat  in the forest when the wind sharpens its scent with the musk of deer and evergreen.

And then  there is the flame of passion, his longing for  Beauty rustling through the room in her silk gown. When he sees the candelabrum glowing in her hand like a lyre of heat, a melodic illumination that enhances her graceful movements, he is cleansed of his primal nature and baptized by the pure warmth of  Beauty’s compassion.

The second part examines what occurs after the beast is changed back into a  prince and all his noble qualities, both physical and spiritual are restored. With the curse broken, he is left doubtful, confused. He wonders if his transformation is real or  an illusion. He also questions the validity of Beauty’s love.  As a beast, she cared for him out of human goodness and compassion. She also stayed with him to fulfill her obligations. But now, when she claims that her affections are directly from the heart, free of pity, and stemming from  a rekindled sense of  passion, he questions the intensity and motive of  her declaration. Is she saying those things out of duty or a fierce loyalty that will not let her speak the truth? Or is her passionate avowal stirred by a deeply sensual attraction to his new form and genteel character. With a  simple gesture of reassurance, the sun fades into evening, and not only is the spell truly broken; but the prince’s confidence in himself, life and Beauty’s authenticity are restored.

    The Restoration

             I Before

As a beast, though clothed
in broadcloth breeches and coat,
shirt lace foaming under his chin,
he has learned to both fear
and crave the flame.

When the wind sharpened the scent
of evergreen and deer, his hunger
became fire -- burning with a taste
for wild game. He searched the forest;
and when he saw sparks glitter
from a campsite, wood smoke blending
with the hunters’ drunken breath,  he ran

aware  of their savage ways,
the blood rites, the trophy head.
And still, he moves toward the glitter
as Beauty’s gown rustles  in the room
and her  hand carries his golden
candelabrum.  In her possession

it becomes a lyre of heat, glowing in tune
with her melodic grace. He can feel
her music, touch the song. She will not
rebuff him. Her voice and heart flower
like the immaculate rose
without thorns.

                 II  After

 As a man, standing in his garden
where pale  lilies open on the pond
and pines filter the sun, he wonders
if  this spell is truly broken. Will he remain
human with  his handsome posture reflecting
a nobler soul? He looks toward the water.

 A woman enters his reflection. Like a flute
with her long hair flowing into a slender gown,
she waits for his lips to ripple music
throughout  her body, for him to accept his reprieve
and her admission of love.  The pity
had perished long before the beast – was ever
changed back into a prince. But still he contemplates
the candor in her voice, the character in her eyes.
She moves closer.  A hand rubs his shoulder
(where the sleeve has been torn on some briars)
and softly polishes the bone. A tender-- telling heat.
that will not fade with the evening light.

Note -- The lovely artwork depicting this fairytale film is by French artist,
Marie-France Riviere. More of  her creative and graceful work can be viewed at
her on-line blog/gallery site here --


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