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PostPosted: Thu Apr 15, 2010 1:13 pm 
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Eclipse Series 22: Presenting Sacha Guitry

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Sacha Guitry was once a household name. Something of a Gallic counterpart to Nöel Coward, this disarming, multitalented artist served up some of 1930s French cinema’s tastiest dishes. The son of a beloved theater actor, Guitry was devoted to the footlights, first turning to the silver screen as a way of bringing his plays to a wider audience. His films were anything but stage-bound, however: often the director, writer, and star of his popular movies, Guitry brought a witty inventiveness to the cinema and deployed radical tactics with such aplomb and control that he’s considered one of the medium’s first “complete auteurs.” With these four films, American audiences can finally sample Guitry’s creative, comic confections.

The Story of a Cheat

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Considered Sacha Guitry’s masterpiece, this fleet, witty picaresque about a gambler and petty thief is a whimsical delight. Guitry himself stars as the “tricheur” looking back fondly on a life of crime, which he narrates with an effervescence matched by his clever editing and cinematography.

The Pearls of the Crown

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Sacha Guitry plays four roles in this multilingual whirlwind of pageantry that investigates the fate of three pearls missing from the royal crown of England. Pearls rockets through four centuries of European history with imaginative, winking irreverence.

Désiré

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Sacha Guitry exchanges his usual top hat for a uniform in Désiré, in which he plays a cavalier valet embroiled in an awkward flirtation with his new employer, played by the actor-director’s real-life wife, Jacqueline Delubac.

Quadrille

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A sparkling four-way affair overflowing with dialogue that showcases writer-director Sacha Guitry’s wit, Quadrille stars Guitry as a magazine editor whose longtime girlfriend (whom he hopes to make his fiancée) is uncontrollably drawn to a handsome American movie star.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 15, 2010 1:14 pm 
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Is the Noel Coward comparison apt or another Oshima=Godard?


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 15, 2010 1:18 pm 
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I'm really looking forward to this set because Sacha Guitry was one of Jean Eustache's favorite film-makers. Plus, I need more French film from the thirties.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 15, 2010 1:19 pm 
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Wonderful news. I have the Gaumont "Story of a Cheat", but haven't sprung for the box yet.
I hope this Criterion release will introduce a lot more people to the delights of Sacha Guitry.
To knives - he's funnier and less snobbish than Noel Coward, and of course, a real moviemaker.
He's more often been called the French Orson Welles, and that is more apposite.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 15, 2010 1:32 pm 
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tojoed wrote:
Wonderful news. I have the Gaumont "Story of a Cheat", but haven't sprung for the box yet.
I hope this Criterion release will introduce a lot more people to the delights of Sacha Guitry.
To knives - he's funnier and less snobbish than Noel Coward, and of course, a real moviemaker.
He's more often been called the French Orson Welles, and that is more apposite.


Guitry's immersion in theatre does draw parallels with Welles and consequently his cinema is firmly rooted under the proscenium arch, which is where the two diverge. In performance terms I'm more often reminded of Jack Benny ). This set is indeed a useful primer for anyone who has not been tempted by the beautiful Gaumont box,which does sport english subtiltles except on the extras, but I'm surprised at the non-inclusion of 'Faisons un Reve' which is farce par excellence.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 15, 2010 1:36 pm 
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Nabob, do you think they might release "Faisons un Reve" and the others in a later box?
I'm assuming they have all of the Gaumont prints.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 15, 2010 2:04 pm 
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This looks to be another interesting set. Guitry's one of those names I've seen bandied about on this board and I look forward to finally sampling his work. The Story of a Cheat was named as one of Cahiers' "Most Beautiful Films"


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 15, 2010 2:17 pm 
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Are these funny (as in "ha ha" funny) or "clever" instead ala Ernst Lubitsch?


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 15, 2010 3:10 pm 
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Tribe wrote:
Are these funny (as in "ha ha" funny) or "clever" instead ala Ernst Lubitsch?


to add to this query, would they be comparable to Alec Guinness's work in Lady Killers or Kind Hearts and Coronets? The multiple roles of course inspires comparisons to Guinness and Sellers...are they apt in terms of the humor each brought to their multiple role films?


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 15, 2010 3:38 pm 
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Tojoed,I don't think that a second Eclipse box would be on the cards and for region free types the Gaumont would be far more advantageous than shelling out for a pair. In this respect it might have been more constructive to have released Roman d'un tricheur as a full on package with historical and critical context with a follow up Eclipse set of another 4 or 5 titles.
Tribe, I would put Guitry's constellation in a similar universe with Lubitsch in sophistication and wit terms, but Guitry himself is always pivotal in the action and therefore even when he is the brunt of the humour he is in control.
Roman is the most cinematic of the bunch mixing a verve and audacity that no doubt had an impact on Truffaut and yes Prof, being in many respects also proto-Ealing with Guitry managing to mix Price's caddishness and Guiness's character posturing in one consummate whole.


Here's Truffaut..
Sacha Guitry! Every time that I feel jaded, ready to yield to discouragement, ready to hand myself over to melancholy, rancor or bitterness, when the disagreeable shadow of surrender comes to darken the work that is in progress, then, it is enough for me to scan Willy Rizzo's photograph of Sacha Guitry and to regain my wings, find again good spirit, tenacity and all the courage in the world.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 15, 2010 3:56 pm 
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Aha! My unforgivable procrastination in not picking up the Gaumont set has not only been forgiven, but rewarded. I've only seen a single, late Guitry (Si Versailles m'etait conte) and I found it stodgy and drab, but these earlier films are supposed to be a completely different kettle of fish. The Story of a Cheat in particular is a kind of fetish object (and inspiration) for many New Wave directors - I think Resnais has joined in with Truffaut on the extravagant praise - and I've been wanting to see it for a long time.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 15, 2010 4:23 pm 
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Zedz, they certainly are different from "Si Versailles", which I don't care for either. It was only in his last film, "Assasins et Voleurs", directing from a wheelchair, I believe, that he recaptured the spirit of, what Gaumont rightly called, the golden age.
Once again, the really exciting stuff for me comes from the Eclipse line.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 16, 2010 3:08 am 
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The problem remains that three other Guitry films were included in the Gaumont release, and I have doubts that Criterion will ever get to them (in a different thread I referenced Shimizu and Eisenstein as sets with undelivered follow-ups). After discounts, one can pick these four flicks up for around $40, whereas the Gaumont set will cost over $100 after exchange rate plus shipping (to the states is pretty bad).

Despite all that, major kudos to Criterion for porting these over! Agreed with tojoed's last statement. I think that these sets, for being dressed-down and having no sups or anything, are really the place where Criterion does its real work anymore. The adventurous Criterion is mostly gone (not an absolute, there are obvious exceptions) but lives on in the Eclipse line. And this is hardly their most adventurous set so far.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 16, 2010 3:19 am 
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NABOB OF NOWHERE wrote:
Tojoed,I don't think that a second Eclipse box would be on the cards and for region free types the Gaumont would be far more advantageous than shelling out for a pair. In this respect it might have been more constructive to have released Roman d'un tricheur as a full on package with historical and critical context with a follow up Eclipse set of another 4 or 5 titles.
Tribe, I would put Guitry's constellation in a similar universe with Lubitsch in sophistication and wit terms, but Guitry himself is always pivotal in the action and therefore even when he is the brunt of the humour he is in control.
Roman is the most cinematic of the bunch mixing a verve and audacity that no doubt had an impact on Truffaut and yes Prof, being in many respects also proto-Ealing with Guitry managing to mix Price's caddishness and Guiness's character posturing in one consummate whole.


Thanks for the feedback...definitely going on the wishlist. "Proto-Ealing" - I like it!


now someone get Barnes and Noble to put this up as a pre-order w/ the $44.95 MSRP like they did with the Oshima set!


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 16, 2010 4:14 am 
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From the films in the Gaumont box I formed the impression that Guitry was fond of the sound of his own voice. And of his own image on the screen. The Story of a Cheat is far and away the best of these films, being much more cinematic than the others. To correct Svevan there were 9 films in the Gaumont set so there are 5 missing from the Criterion (one is a two or three reeler). The early ones are very much like filmed stage plays, often with a single set. On the other hand the later ones are less interesting I think. I'm surprised that Pearls of the Crown was included instead of Faisons une Reve. Pearls is both dull and a little twee.

This Time article from 1948 is quite amusing once you've seen a couple of his works.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 16, 2010 6:15 am 

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Rufus T. Firefly wrote:
Guitry was fond of the sound of his own voice. And of his own image on the screen.

I couldn't agree more - by comparison, Welles was self-effacing! When I finally got to see Le Roman d'un Tricheur after decades of anticipation I was sorely disappointed and even irritated by it. I agree it has moments of cinematic wit but it's allied to the extreme literariness of Guitry's almost relentless narration and I was so busy reading the sub-titles I could barely appreciate the visual jokes. If I had a fluent understanding of spoken French, maybe I'd enjoy it more, but I think I'd still dislike the way Guitry's narration often merely duplicates instead of complementing the visual action - if a character is shown entering a room, he lets you know verbally too. I think Dennis Price's narration in Kind Hearts and Coronets (though probably influenced by Guitry) is much more subtle and effective. I remember enjoying Pearls of the Crown more but my memory (from over 20 years ago) is that too is heavily dependent on narration.

The only part of Tricheur I truly enjoyed was the inventive opening credits. After that, it was downhill all the way for me.


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PostPosted: Sun May 23, 2010 7:07 am 

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The Gaumont box isn't called The Golden Age for nothing - after the war nothing was the same, and not only Guitry's postbellum films but also his "apolitical" (?) stance during WW2 didn't do anything for his reputation afterwards. Understandably, nobody was much interested in elegant high comedies in the 40s and 50s, and there were lean years before the Nouvelle Vague reinvigorated French cinema.

All of which is a preamble to my saying I wouldn't be without any of the 8 features and 1 short in the Gaumont box. Sure I have favourites, but the wit, pace, style, and performance power are consistently exhilarating. All but one of the transfers are flawless, they have English subtitles for the feature films (not the extras), the sound is fine, and oh, the box is about the most elegantly designed and decorated I've ever seen - plenty of sepia toned stills and old gold highlights and drawing room wallpaper motifs in gold and cream in a box the size of a Frank Lloyd Wright housebrick... yumm...

You people who aren't region-free yet - get with the program! :D


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PostPosted: Sun May 23, 2010 3:09 pm 

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Apologizing in advance if this was discussed before, but does the inclusion of particular title in An Eclipse box mean that this title will never get into the main collection?

There were films before in Eclipse (e.g. Ozu's I Was Born..., etc.), which, to me at least, deserved to be issued in CC itself, but Story of a Cheat is the most obvious of all...

I was reading all the online reviews I could locate on a French edition exactly at the time when this Eclipse box was announced, and was very dissapointed: if this will not be bettered either in UK or Australia, the bear-bone DVD s the best thing English-speaking world could ever get (since the minor extras on a French DVD do not seem like being English-friendly)


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PostPosted: Sun May 23, 2010 4:02 pm 
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There's no precedent yet for taking Eclipse titles and moving them into the mainline, but Criterion has said that Eclipse releases don't preclude future spine numbers. That said, I don't think any titles are going to make the jump without future restorations, newly available supplements, or the desire to upgrade a movie to Blu once it settles in as the format of choice. We've been getting Eclipse sets for years now, none of which have been upgraded, so in the case of Guitry I'd say 2+ years minimum, if ever.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 21, 2010 1:17 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 22, 2010 10:27 am 
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Excellent! I'm really looking forward to watching this next week. Quadrille looks particularly intriguing. I'm not so strong on French comedy of this period so it should be a treat.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 28, 2010 8:33 am 
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Last night, I watched The Story of a Cheat. I didn't know what to expect, but I loved it. The opening scene when the film crew was surveyed - which reminded me of the opening spoken credits of Contempt and Fahrenheit 451 (perhaps an homage to Guitry on the part of Godard and Truffaut?) - was delightful and won me in to the extent that I wanted to rewind to the beginning. Guitry is setting up the template of the film by way of his opening narration because the entire movie (unbeknownst to me) is narrated and this is his way of acclimating the viewer to it. Although the constant narration is wearying after awhile, it keeps up its pace and provided for me a sizable share of the film's beauty. I found Guitry's narration witty and engaging in a natural way like a conversation rather than as a tiring monologue. The acting provided me a greater delight than the narration, though. It was fluidly performed and hilariously realized. I might be mistaken in being reminded of Chaplin here, but I think that a comparison might work. I don't think I'm short-changing the narration by praising the acting - indeed, the two elements work together perfectly and create by way of the narration a godlike facade for Guitry as he speaks and they move - but the beauty of the acting (the movements of the actors complemented by the agreeableness of their faces and bodies) drew me in as Guitry's narrative tricks became evident. On a second viewing, the narration may tickle me more effectively, perhaps. The editing was also quite impressive. I'd thought that it'd be a lot of master shots similar to theatre, but I was surprised to find it much different with cuts and pans doing interesting things. The pace of the editing really worked for the narration and the acting. I'll have to notice that as well when I watch this again. All in all, it was a lovely film and the experience was quite enjoyable. A friend was present as well who loved the narration and said, "This was funnier than I'd expected." My only contemporary comparison to this film in terms of sophisticated comedy is Trouble in Paradise. That's just my reference point, though, and probably not Lubitsch's. I can't say that I know how he felt about Guitry; I'll have to check Scott Eyman's biography to find out. Having watched this, I can't say that I'm the least bit surprised that Truffaut liked Guitry as this film felt like the sort of cinema that he'd enjoy. I was mainly interested in Guitry as Eustache loved his work and I can see why as some of the ethnographic details felt like things Eustache noticed in his documentaries and some of the narration sounded like things that Alexandre would say. I'm glad that I took the trouble to acquire this set. Usually, I get an Eclipse set and go through the box one by one, but here I just want to go back and watch The Story of a Cheat again. I hope that the rest of the films are as enjoyable - looking forward to seeing Arletty! - but if not then at least there's this one to keep me busy for awhile. Quadrille should be next once I come back to the set.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 28, 2010 9:35 am 
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It's good to know you liked it. It's been one of my favourites for years and this Eclipse set should bring Guitry a new audience with any luck.
I think you're right about Truffaut and Godard in relation to the credits. Orson Welles, also a fan, did the same thing in "Ambersons", of course.
As for Lubitsch, Truffaut is with you, he called Guitry "Lubitsch's French cousin", and never one for understatement, said he was more gifted than Duvivier, Gremillon, and Feyder.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 28, 2010 10:38 am 

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tojoed wrote:
...never one for understatement, said he was more gifted than Duvivier, Gremillon, and Feyder.

Was that (in itself) much of a compliment coming from Truffaut? Weren't those three directors all part of "le cinema de papa" which he hated anyway?

About Feyder, for example, Truffaut wrote: "... the most hateful film is unarguably La Kermesse héroïque because everything in it is incomplete, its boldness is attenuated; it is reasonable, measured, its doors are half-open, the paths are sketched and only sketched; everything in it is pleasant and perfect.”


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 28, 2010 10:45 am 
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What's holding me back from blind-buying this set is the fact that aside from The Story of a Cheat, the other films seem like they could be rather dry and antiquated - is anyone who's seen them willing to quickly review them in this thread? I'm hoping to be able to watch The Story of a Cheat (c'mon, Netflix) before the Criterion sale is over, but I'm trying hard to justify a $30 purchase with only one of the films under my belt. Can anyone specifically attest to the quality of the other three films in the set, since The Story of a Cheat is obviously the rockstar standout that everyone's buzzing about?


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