A Zoom Salon of The Beauty and the Beast (1946) 96 min | Mechanics' Institute

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A Zoom Salon of The Beauty and the Beast (1946) 96 min
July 2020 - French Classics

CinemaLit Curator Matthew Kennedy

CinemaLit Popcorn Pop-Up Salon: July -- French Classics

Hello Film Lovers,

Welcome back to CinemaLit! We have missed our Friday night gatherings. Laura, Pam, and I are excited to launch this new format for CinemaLit as we Shelter at Home. We will be viewing films on Kanopy and gathering online for a Popcorn Pop-Up Salon!

All you will need is either a Mechanics' Institute library card, or a San Francisco Public Library card, which will give you access to Kanopy and its treasure trove of movies. Make a reservation as usual via Eventbrite and watch the film on Kanopy at your leisure. You will receive a link to the Friday night CinemaLit salon on Zoom two days in advance. On the night of the salon click the Zoom link and join us.

If you do not receive a Zoom Link by the day of the event, contact Pam Troy at rsvp@milibrary.org.


Mechanics’ Institute members can now sign up for FREE access to Kanopy, a wonderful film streaming service. To sign up:

1. Click on  THIS LINK.

2. Click on the large orange login button that reads, “Log in to milibrary.”

3. Enter the 14-digit bar code from your MI Library card

4. Set up your account following Kanopy’s instructions, including your email and a password.

5. Kanopy will send verification to your email address.

You’ll be able to choose from a wonderful selection of films, including classics, pre-code, foreign films, and documentaries, including the films we’ve scheduled this month for CinemaLit.

If you are not a Mechanics’ Institute member, consider membership and click  HERE  to join online:

Or, you can check with your public library to see if they are Kanopy members. If so, you may use your public library card to set up a Kanopy account.


 Grab your popcorn and hankies and join us on Friday nights in June! 

 Matthew Kennedy, curator and host

July 2020: French Classics

Bastille Day is July 14, and we're using that as a reason to celebrate classic French cinema this month. We've scheduled four films (in bold type below), one from each decade from the 1930s to the 1960s. This is hardly a complete survey of French film classics, but it's a beginning.

The contributions of France to world cinema are incalculable, beginning with the Lumière Brothers first screening of "moving" pictures projected through light at a theater in Paris in 1895. In the early twentieth century, French film production grew and thrived until World War I effectively destroyed the industry. Visionary directors such as Abel Gance (Napoleon), Jacques Feyder (Faces of Children), Germaine Dulac (The Seashell and the Clergyman) and Marcel Pagnol (the Marseilles Trilogy) brought French cinema back to glory in the 1920s and 1930s. Arguably the most influential and acclaimed director of the period is Jean Renoir, whose Grand Illusion (1937) and The Rules of the Game (1939) stun with their astute observations of the human psyche.

The industry again suffered during World War II, but amidst post-war austerity came The Children of Paradise and Jean Cocteau's enduring avant-garde fantasy The Beauty and the Beast (1946). By the 1950s, French filmmaking had grown a bit staid. Jacques Tati, Robert Bresson, Jacques Becker, and a handful of others were making outstanding films, but the industry needed fresh air. In the late 1950s, a group of renegade directors sought to upend conventions by enlivening their films with a bracing realism, outdoor locations, and personal stories. The French New Wave (Nouvelle Vague) shook the movie world to its roots, influencing filmmakers and audience tastes ever since. Its leading directors include François Truffaut (The 400 Blows, 1959) and Agnès Varda (Cléo from 5 to 7, 1962).

Hope you'll join us for great cinéma française in July!

Friday, July 17 - The Beauty and the Beast (1946)

"Love can turn a man into a beast. But love can also make an ugly man handsome."

The oft-told tale The Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et la Bête) is given its most rapturous cinematic treatment in this 1946 version directed by Jean Cocteau.

Cocteau, who was also a designer, novelist, and poet, was influenced by the engravings of Gustave Doré and the paintings of Jan Vermeer in realizing The Beauty and the Beast. From those inspirations and others, he created a singular visual style for the film. It's filled with effects made on the set (living statues, trick mirrors) and in post-production (slow motion, reverse motion). Under heavy budget restrictions, much of the trompe l'oeil is obvious and easy to decipher. Today's computer-generated imagery (CGI) is vastly more varied and complex. Even so, Cocteau and his team of designers create and sustain an illusory world that still enchants and enthralls. More stuff in the toolbox doesn't always make greater art.

The Beauty and the Beast isn't merely an impressive technical achievement. With the film's message of beauty hiding under a horrific exterior, Cocteau sought to uplift audiences ravaged by World War II. The interplay of titular stars Josette Day and Jean Marais is exquisite as both are transformed by miraculous unimaginable love. The supporting actors, playing a pair of sisters, a suitor, and a father, are no less impressive in their commitment to Cocteau's surreal world. The combined efforts of all involved make cinema magic.


Curated by Matthew Kennedy

Matthew Kennedy, CinemaLit’s curator, has written biographies of Marie Dressler, Joan Blondell, and Edmund Goulding. His book Roadshow! The Fall of Film Musicals in the 1960s, was the basis of a film series on Turner Classic Movies. 

I don't have a favorite film,” Matthew says. "I find that my relationships to films, actors, genres, and directors change as I change over the years. Some don't hold up. Some look more profound, as though I've caught up with their artistry. I feel that way about Garbo, Cary Grant, director John Cassavetes, and others."

Classic films have historical context, something only time can provide,” Matt observes. “They become these great cultural artifacts, so revealing of tastes, attitudes, and assumptions.”

Register with Eventbrite below.

If the green TICKET button is not immediately visible, scroll down on the right in the Eventbrite window until it appears


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