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 Post subject: 123 / BD 48 La Poison
PostPosted: Sun Oct 07, 2012 12:17 pm 
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La Poison

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One of the great late period films by Sacha Guitry — the total auteur who delighted (and scandalised) the French public and inspired the French New Wave as a model for authorship as director-writer-star of screen and stage alike. In every one of his pictures (and almost every one served as a rueful examination of the war between the sexes), Guitry sculpted by way of a rapier wit — one might say by way of "the Guitry touch" — some of the most sophisticated black comedies ever conceived… and La Poison [Poison] is one of his blackest.

Michel Simon plays Paul Braconnier, a man with designs on murdering his wife Blandine (Germaine Reuver) — a woman with similar designs on her husband. When Braconnier visits Paris to consult with a lawyer about the perfect way of killing a spouse — that is, the way in which he can get away with it — an acid comedy unfolds that reaches its peak in a courtroom scene for the ages.

From the moment of Guitry's trademark introduction of his principals in the opening credits, and on through the brilliant performance by national treasure Michel Simon (of Renoir's Boudu sauvé des eaux and Vigo's L'Atalante, to mention only two high-water marks), here is fitting indication of why Guitry is considered by many the Gallic equal of Ernst Lubitsch. The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to introduce Sacha Guitry into the catalogue with La Poison for the first time on video in the UK in a dazzling new Gaumont restoration.

SPECIAL FEATURES

• Glorious new HD restoration of the film, presented in 1080p on the Blu-ray
• Newly translated optional subtitles
On Life On-Screen: Miseries and Splendour of a Monarch, a 61-minute documentary about Guitry and the making of the film
• Substantial booklet containing writing on the film, vintage excerpts, and rare archival imagery


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 12, 2012 5:02 pm 

Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2008 12:49 pm
Just noticed this. Wow. Always wanted to see it; just missed it at MoMA this summer; very curious as to how it will compare to those delightful 30s Guitrys. First definite purchase from MOC for me in too long!


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 21, 2012 5:27 pm 
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An hour-long doc has been added to the features for this.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 21, 2012 5:29 pm 
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Beat me to it! Again, that's the Gaumont bettered by including English subtitles on the extra plus a booklet.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 21, 2012 5:30 pm 
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I only looked because you posted the update for the Fellini. :wink:


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2013 12:59 pm 
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Beaver


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 07, 2013 8:57 pm 

Joined: Thu Jul 31, 2008 7:38 pm
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This is one of my 4 or 5 favourites films by Guitry, even though he does not really act in it (I love his voice and delivery) except in the introduction, but Simon certainly makes up for his absence. It also features delightful Pauline Carton, a Guitry stalwart, getting a slightly meatier role than most often (as a side note, she also was Guitry's uncredited assistant and researcher over a good part of his career).

I received this two days ago day and I could not wait to sample the picture quality: it looks like this version provides as good an image as one could expect for a movie of that period, while the documentary should provide fascinating viewing. I certainly know what I will be watching this weekend.

But I was truly disappointed by the booklet, not up to MoC's general standards in my view. The essay by Bettina Knapp is rather generic and lightweight, relying a lot on plot summary. It does not deal at all with Guitry's aesthetics and personal use of film form. It does not even mention that the jaundiced view of the French legal system in the movie stems in part from the way he was treated at the Liberation, arbitrarily arrested and detained because of alleged collaboration with the Nazis, and that the trial scenes can be see as a kind of belated sweet revenge.

It feels like MoC went for a quick and easy easy solution by getting reprint rights to what is probably one of the very few books in English on the director. Is the rest of Knapp's book as superficial as the chapter used in the booklet? If they weren't ready to commission a new essay, there are any number of more substantive existing articles in French available for use, but of course that would have required paying translation fees.

I am really sorry that they dropped the ball on that side of the reissue, but I am still grateful that the film is available in such a high quality edition.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 08, 2013 9:01 am 
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Florinaldo wrote:
If they weren't ready to commission a new essay, there are any number of more substantive existing articles in French available for use, but of course that would have required paying translation fees.


I'm fairly sure evillights/Craig does all the French translating for MoC himself anyway.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 08, 2013 9:29 am 

Joined: Mon Jun 25, 2007 2:33 am
Florinaldo wrote:
But I was truly disappointed by the booklet, not up to MoC's general standards in my view. The essay by Bettina Knapp is rather generic and lightweight, relying a lot on plot summary. It does not deal at all with Guitry's aesthetics and personal use of film form. It does not even mention that the jaundiced view of the French legal system in the movie stems in part from the way he was treated at the Liberation, arbitrarily arrested and detained because of alleged collaboration with the Nazis, and that the trial scenes can be see as a kind of belated sweet revenge.

Happily, this is covered in the excellent documentary on the disc. A shame about the booklet, though.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 08, 2013 12:53 pm 

Joined: Thu Jul 31, 2008 7:38 pm
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Jack Phillips wrote:
Happily, this is covered in the excellent documentary on the disc. A shame about the booklet, though.
I assumed that would be the case; I am happy to hear it confirmed and I am looking forward to watching that documentary, after the movie of course.

However, the booklet is the quickest and most convenient source of info for a DVD since you don't have to turn on the player to access it, and this one is below par.

Has anyone read the rest of the Guitry book by Knapp?


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 10, 2013 4:34 pm 

Joined: Mon Nov 15, 2004 2:47 pm
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Sorry you feel the booklet is below par. We have had many more comments from folks who enjoyed the essay and the overview it affords on the film without stepping on the toes of the documentary.

There's a dearth of writing on this film; we were unable to find anything (in English or French) that presented anything as substantive / the kind of piece we were looking for as did Knapp's. Additionally, none of the writers we had approached were familiar enough with this film to feel comfortable writing about it. I would have contributed a piece myself in addition to the Knapp, but there's only so much time in a three-release month.

Guitry's body of work is massive – and this release, plus the Eclipse, are only the tip of the iceberg – that is, the permeation of Guitry into common-currency with regard to anglophone cinephile consciousness is only just beginning. It's not unreasonable that some allowances be made as what have traditionally been very-difficult-to-see films are in the process of gradually being made more widely available.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2013 4:32 pm 

Joined: Thu Jul 31, 2008 7:38 pm
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evillights wrote:
Sorry you feel the booklet is below par. We have had many more comments from folks who enjoyed the essay and the overview it affords on the film without stepping on the toes of the documentary.
Thanks for the background info on the constraints that go into putting together a booklet for MoC's releases, both financial and practical. I certainly was not expecting for Guitry something in the order of what your did for Dreyer's Le Procès de Jeanne d'Arc. But since I received La Poison at the same time as Fear and Desire and The Bue Angel, it unavoidably suffered in comparison with those two.

I still believe that a general presentation of Guitry would have been useful in a title that counts as one of the very first truly substantive editions of the author's work to the English-speaking public. I am surprised to hear that you could not find much valuable material in English or French; it's not as if there is a shortage of books in French. True, quality is variable and a good number of them mainy deal with reminiscences and anecdotes or are simply anthologies of his bon mots and wittiest quotes.

But if memory serves me right, even in those books dealing solely with remembrances by people who worked with him there are pages that would have been relevant to the shooting of La Poison. Moreover, although Guitry never wrote a full autobiography, he left autobiographical sketches that might be mined for background excerpts (like his texts on working during the Occupation or recounting his days in jail after his post-Liberation arrest). I think there are also a few relevant pages in the anthology of texts by various authors published by L'Âge d'Homme. Or in books by his frequent collaborators, like Pauline Carton's autobiography.

One commodity which is indeed rare are in-depth essays on his use of film form, especially the discussion as to whether he just made straight versions of stage plays or if he blended the conventions of both mediums to produce his own form of theatrical film. I thought Jacques Lorcey's book "Les Films de Sacha Guitry" was a worthy first step in that direction and I remember the section on La Poison as being of the same generally good level as the rest of the book. Lorcey is probably the go-to Guitry specialist at present, with several books to his credit. Most of them are in the reminiscences or anecdotes category I mentioned earlier, but in the process he does make available a great deal of material and info on the filmmaker, even as he recycles some of it from book to book.

The new book by Christophe Mirambeau, published last month in France, is supposed to contain new information, but I haven't seen it yet.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2013 4:35 pm 
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Pedantic moment, but you gave the wrong Joan title. That's the name of Bresson's version.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2013 6:24 pm 

Joined: Thu Jul 31, 2008 7:38 pm
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Since I am far from passionate about Dreyer's film and think that watching it does feel like a trial at times, I see where my mistake may have originated. :wink:


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 23, 2013 12:20 pm 

Joined: Thu Jul 31, 2008 7:38 pm
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I have fished out the Lorcey book I mentioned above, and it is not quite as in-depth as I remembered it, although it does hold a lot of good material. I think the book I may have been thinking about is actually the one by Noël Simsolo, published by Les Cahiers du Cinema, which I read years ago from a university library and don't have at hand presently.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 09, 2016 8:36 am 
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Pretty obvious why no one bothered to talk about this once it came out. Unfunny comedy hinging on the same idea being endlessly beat into the ground (or stabbed to death, if you will). I'd find Guitry's cavalier attitude far more defensible if it was at the service of a film out to do more than provoke a cheap laugh at how faux-naughty it is


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