The release contains only a handful of supplements though they total well over two-hours together. Still, I can’t say I found the features terribly engaging.
Director Olivier Assayas offers a 16-minute appreciation of the director, covering his style and humour and why they appeal to him. He talks about a number of films before getting into La poison specifically and how it and his later films compare to his earlier works, including casting other actors (like Michel Simon in this case) in what would usually be the Guitry role.
A pair of hour-long documentaries are also included. On Life On-Screen: Miseries and Splendour of a Monarch is a documentary on the work of Guitry and Michel Simon and then their collaborations together. The feature does have more of a focus on Guitry and spends more time looking at his life and career through interviews with those that knew him as well as scholars, including his biographer. There is also discussion about the accusations that were thrown at him after the war about collaborating with the Germans, and they also take on the criticisms of misogyny also thrown at him.
The other feature is an episode of Les cinéasts de notre temps about Guitry that aired in May of 1965. Through interviews (including with Simon) the episode works its way through Guitry’s life and career and appears to be offering a bit of a defense of his work, more suggested by the opening bit that goes over the lackluster critical appreciation the filmmaker had received throughout his career (Simon recalls one critic saying his films are “just champagne bubbles”). Throughout we also get a number of stories about the man, either personal or from the set, like Simon recalling how Guitry allowed him to do just one take instead of multiple (this may have also helped with the film being completed in just over a week).
Criterion also includes a booklet (yes, a booklet) featuring a fairly lengthy essay by Ginette Vincendeau, getting a little into Guitry’s career and then the film’s dark humour and despicable characters, probably more a product of the post-war period. The booklet also includes a reprint of an obituary for Guitry written by François Truffaut, the director explaining his admiration for the man and his work, even offering his brief thoughts on a number of his films.
I liked the booklet quite a bit and it ends up being the strongest addition here. The rest, though fine and great for newcomers to Guitry’s work, weren’t the most engaging pieces for me. I guess the term is “your mileage may vary.” 6/10