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PostPosted: Thu Jul 29, 2010 3:57 pm 
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Fernando Croce on the set for Slant in a favourable (though you wouldn't guess from the 2 stars rating) review

http://www.slantmagazine.com/dvd/review ... uitry/1784

Quote:
the four films collected in the Presenting Sacha Guitry Eclipse box set showcase the kind of unmistakable visual sensibility that eluded fellow wordsmiths like Joseph Mankiewicz or Albert Lewin. Far from canned theater, these works reveal a distinctive cinematic motor purring under their arch verbosity, with the camera weaving and bobbing to Guitry's rapier wit.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 29, 2010 4:46 pm 
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Wow, Slant has sort of a fucked up DVD rating system.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 29, 2010 6:10 pm 
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The "overall" reflects the DVD/set itself, not the film (or films) on it.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 29, 2010 6:13 pm 
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But since there's no rating for quality of the films themselves, and the things that first grab your attention are the two, giant red stars, it makes a negative first impression.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 29, 2010 6:29 pm 
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That is true


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 30, 2010 12:23 pm 

Joined: Tue Feb 05, 2008 8:54 pm
mfunk9786 wrote:
aside from The Story of a Cheat, the other films seem like they could be rather dry and antiquated

A month or two before Criterion announced this set I had a copy of the 8 disk French "L'Age D'Or" Guitry set shipped across the Atlantic to me. So far I have watched 6 of the 8, 3 that are in the Eclipse and 3 that are not.

I haven't found any of them to be at all dry. Of course, as that one review's use of the term "wordsmith" might suggest, this may rely on how Guitry's dialog strikes you. I find it very amusing / funny, to the point where Le Roman d'Un Tricheur (The Story of a Cheat) (for as good and interesting as it was; and it was, I liked it a lot) was actually the one that made me laugh the least. The near total narration precludes the back and forth dialog and the periodic in-the-moment rant that are primary sources of my giggles / laughs in Guitry's work.

I should probably mention that, while I'm nowhere near fluent enough to turn off the subtitles, French is the closest thing that I've got to a second language. So I catch more of the dialog more directly than is in the subtitles. That probably helps some. Guitry tends to have dialog in greater volume at greater speed than subtitles will ever be able to fully render. It's bit like what I imagine it would be like to need subtitles for His Girl Friday. (Of course, I don't know how the subtitles that I'm seeing on the French disks relate to those on the Eclipse set.)

Les Perles de la Couronne / The Pearls of the Crown seemed as quick and inventive as Tricheur to me. Certainly it is as far away from anything that you would expect from anyone who normally works in live theater. It's something that could only be attempted in cinema. The scene with Arletty in full body "black" makeup as the queen of Abyssinia almost makes Al Jolson seem racially sensitive; but the saving grace here is that *everybody* is being played a bit farcically.

Desire looks a bit more like something that may have originally been envisioned as a play. I don't mean in terms of how he uses the camera, just in terms of limiting the locations to one house for the first third or so and another one house for the last half or two thirds. It's a cross between a sex farce and a comedy of manners. It definitely would not have flown in Hays Code era American movies; very "Pre-Code" in subject matter. It made me laugh more than the other two mentioned. The movie also benefits from having Guitry (the actor) play opposite Arletty for a fair amount of time. Jacqueline Delubac (Guitry's wife at the time) is in *all* of these movies to some degree or other (the previous two movies discussed are actually probably her smallest roles that I've seen). She's nice to look at, and she does what is asked of her well enough. But there's a reason why Guitry never gives her the volume of verbiage that he throws at himself and some others. Arletty gives him someone more in his own "weight class" to play off of.

I haven't gotten around to watching Quadrille yet.

The other three that I've seen are more obviously former stage plays. Not that it looks like a taped stage performance, but in much the same way that 12 Angry Men was. There's extremely little in the way of "opening out" of the settings in those three. I still find them to be a lot of fun. I just really like his dialog; it makes me laugh. He does seem to like to write large chunks of plays / movies as a series of dialogs .... in the literal sense of being one-to-one conversations. For me, it works. Then again, since these aren't in the Eclipse set, this paragraph is fairly irrelevant. :wink:


Last edited by PillowRock on Tue Apr 05, 2011 7:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 30, 2010 1:47 pm 
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Thanks for the great input! Looking forward to this set's arrival more than ever.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 02, 2010 11:01 am 

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I noticed the the reviewer at DVD Verdict seemed significantly less amused than I was by the movies beyond Tricheur. In particular, he thought that Guitry's periodic rants tended to get old before he before he wrapped them up.

Whether that is due to the difference understanding a fair amount of French versus having to rely entirely on the subtitles (which I alluded to in my previous post) or whether it is more a matter of simple difference in personal senses of humor, I can't tell. It could be either, or a combination of both.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 31, 2011 6:55 pm 
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Does Guitry ever shut up?


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 31, 2011 10:57 pm 
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Désiré is perhaps the most exhausting movie to sit through if you don't speak French, it's like a crash course in speed-reading. But Guitry's frantic lines are hilarious, I wonder how many takes his scenes in Désiré took.

While I found Story of a Cheat to be the pinnacle of the set I really fell in love with Guitry's style (not least because of the charming introductions of cast and crew at the start of each film). I still have to check out the Rossellini set, but this is thus far my favorite Eclipse, the movies have an indelible charm, they could have simply been dry stage-to-screen adaptations but Guitry marks them with enough visual flourishes to display an ease and delight with the medium.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 31, 2011 11:06 pm 
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I really hope that my tastes are simply contrary because I found Story of a Cheat to be mediocre at best. The only moments when the film had me going was when he was speaking to the countess. The narration did nothing, not even the sort of verbal to visual humour that would fit a story like this so well. It seemed to be there just for Guitry to hear his own voice. In all honesty I wonder why he bothered to adapt his book seeing as how it remains just that, we even get useless stage direction when we can see what is happening plainly. The narration adds nothing(in fact it detracts seeing how Guitry didn't need to spend money recording on set)and ruins the genuine talent for hilarity he has. This film is self sabotage at it's worst.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2011 4:43 am 

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I'm glad we agree. :)


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2011 11:17 am 
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Murdoch wrote:
I still have to check out the Rossellini set, but this is thus far my favorite Eclipse

I think this is one of the better Eclipse sets as well. Pearls of the Crown probably works best for me, as the imposition of Guitry's, let's say, acquired taste for livening things up is most welcome over what could have otherwise amounted to a boring history lesson.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 21, 2013 6:29 pm 

Joined: Tue Aug 25, 2009 2:49 am
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Does anybody have problems with playing Desire’ disc? Mine freezes at ~ 55’20” and either stops altogether or jumps to next chapter (depending on what I’m playing it on).


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 27, 2015 7:48 pm 
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The Story of a Cheat is a little bit like the sound reissue of The Gold Rush, in that The Story of a Cheat is basically a silent film with wall-to-wall narration. At first this is fun, then it becomes tiresome, then it becomes sort of brilliant.

And because the narration is so exasperatingly fast you never catch your breath throughout the film, and it's only on thinking about it afterwards that I had a slightly shocked chance to appreciate the density and brilliance of the piece. I rewatched a couple scenes even. This is a film that definitely needs more than one viewing to really appreciate everything going on. For instance the rapidfire foreshadowing of the family's death in the first scene. With its bulldozer pace I felt like the subtitles couldn't keep up with the nuance of the language, I constantly felt like I was missing a little idiomatic something or other. But in spite of that, the film is brilliant and relatively flawless and narratively and comicly bold for the era, so much so that it feels fresh, lively and modern even today. Marvelous.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2015 6:16 pm 
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The Pearls of the Crown is a bizarre (perhaps innovative is a more polite word?) film. Guitry relentlessly insists on telling,talking,telling,talking the story rather than showing it. This gives the film (and the previous one) an aspect of illustrating the narration, which makes both films exhausting and tiresome.

Worse than these tiresome qualities, the narration of Pearls of the Crown takes a very... childish... approach to what it is narrating. Guitry narrates every action, giving every step equal weight. This is exhausting, and since the film is about the titular pearls, the narration is basically like "ye, and Joseph begat Jacob, and Jacob begat Israel, and Israel begat..." it is completely ineffective and useless storytelling.

On the other hand, Guitry is doing bold and interesting things in the film with narrative structure and language. The film begins with a 56 minute prologue setting up the titular story of the Pearls of the Crown (because you have to know all the begating of the pearls in question before you can hear a story about said pearls, apparently), which is pretty damn bold anyway you slice it. The film also opens self reflexively. The opening scene is our narrator/director telling his wife that he has a story that will make an excellent film," and of course we are watching that film he is describing. It's meta, modern and refreshing.

Guitry then extends the boldness further, because it's not just our narrator/director, two other people have stumbled upon the same story simultaneously, and are telling their respective employers the same story in their languages. This is a man serving the King of England and a man serving the Pope, so the languages are English and Italian. Guitry rapidly cuts between French, English and Italian scenes, never doubting that the viewer can follow the massive narrative leaps he's making--which makes the insistence on the patronizing and mediocre storytelling of the begating of the Pearls all the more puzzling--for the next 50 minutes of prologue we slog through hundreds of years of history and many countries in a series of mini stories that are baffling in how boring and staid they are. We're also treated to Arletty in blackface in a profoundly racist and offensive sequence that would make the film infamous and notorious were it a hollywood production.

Then, the three narrators meet as they all jointly decide to investigate the three pearls that have been missing for the past few hundred years. Initially we follow one pearl's story in sequence but only in modern day, then we set it aside, and return to telling stories of the other two pearls (but not their modern day stories, only the stories of their recent history up to modern day). Then we jump backward to the abovementioned pearl and tell the story of it's history up to the modern day. Then we rejoin the modern day story set aside previously to finish that final thread and wrap up the film.

I rewatched the whole second half because I couldn't believe something that sounds that interesting in concept could be that boring and ineffective in execution--it's ultimately more fun to talk about what the film is doing with its narratives than try to remember any of the deadly dull aspects of said narratives.

It has enough fascinating innovations and narrative boldness that the film should be amazing, if it were a good film, or good filmmaking, it would be absolutely legendary. If it were merely competent, it would be as strong as the underrated anthology film, Tales of Manhattan. But the film just feels bloated, stilted and relentlessly anti-cinematic in its storytelling. And the acting is fairly mediocre throughout, as well, depending more on the stuntcasting of actors recurring in many roles throughout history than on strong performances. In that respect it's akin to Mel Brooks' the History of the World Part I, but not as well acted as that (which is not to say that it is a pinnacle of acting, which it is not). :/


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 05, 2015 8:09 pm 
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Désiré is an entertaining upstairs downstairs affair, its a romantic comic drama of the Coward/Lubitsch/Wilder variety. The film's blistering pace belies its lengthy, dense and intelligent scenes. Guitry manages to direct his barely scathing teasing against class, marriage, sex and politics with equal aplomb. It has the strongest chemistry between the actors and performance quality yet seen in the Guitry set. It would be a complete disservice to both films to compare this to My Man Godfrey, so I won't, but I imagine the comparison has been ineptly made before.

The film opens with the hiring of a new valet, after a brief prologue with the employers, we meet the Valet, Guitry, as he meets the maid, Arletty, and the Cook. Their lengthy scene together more or less comprises an entire act and is my favorite part of the film. I almost wish he'd made a film in which you never actually see the employers and only get to hang out with this fantastic trio as they moan and groan and flirt with each other... but that is neither here nor there.

Next, you see that after the briefest of interviews, Désiré is hired as Valet, and then as quickly un-hired. The mistress of the house phones his reference who implies he made sexual advances towards her. Désiré exeunts, and then just as quickly returns to fight for his job back, chiefly by monologuing and berating various targets until the rest of the second act is finished. Naturally, his outburst wins him his job and Act 3 begins with the household having removed themselves to the country estate. Act 3 is tremendous fun, as the sexual tension between Désiré and his employer plays out in the comicly novel way of each of them respectively experiencing loudly orgasmic sexual dreams about the other. This is discovered and revealed to each in turn by other members of the household who have been wakened by their exclamations and pleasure moans. Naturally a book about erotic dreams enters into it. Act 4 then concerns itself with a lengthy dinner with a pair of prize dinner guests, one deaf, the other lecherous. This provides the material to resolve the plot, but is perhaps the weakest part of the film (and it's also the most political, so perhaps my ignorance of french politics of the time plays into missing subtle stuff that might improve my understanding of it).

The film resolves itself fairly strongly, never becoming as trite as one might expect.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 19, 2015 3:19 am 
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Sacha Guitry doesn't do things halfway.
When there's narration in The Story of a Cheat, it's wall to wall narration.
At times, it makes a fun comment on the action, which usually is plain enough and doesn't require narration.
But it often wears down the viewer.

In The Pearls of the Crown, Guitry shows everyone who ever possessed one of the pearls, even if they died shortly thereafter. And after we finally learn how the 4 pearls became affixed to the English Crown, basically another film gears up as we follow a hunt for the missing three pearls. Fortunately, our English, French & Italian gentleman are able to trace in a short two week period. Unfortunately, that means we need to see everyone who possessed one of the pearls for the past 300 years. Guitry's approach is somewhere between relentless and tedious. The Red Violin is a more streamlined version of what Pearls attempts.

The Ethiopian scene was bizarre. I guess to be charitable, Guitry does show that European languages are all a mishmash and not terribly comprehensible as well. And then once that gag is over, he quickly kicks out the gaggle of translators. More minor/casual racism later when all the Euro-gentleman agree that the fake pearl must have been one of the Ethiopian ones.

Quadrille didn't do much for me, but was a more normal film, without the excesses of the other two.
More of a fluff piece on adultery and French attitudes towards such.

Not sure where my disc of Desire has gotten too.
But I pretty much had my fill of old Sacha Guitry anyway. An acquired taste I won't be acquiring.


Last edited by Lemmy Caution on Thu Mar 19, 2015 1:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 19, 2015 1:20 pm 
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I swear I posted about quadrille. Huh. Lost to the nethers of the Internet apparently


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 28, 2015 4:05 pm 
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Quadrille is basically the sort of film you would get if you convinced David O. Russell to remake His Girl Friday with the cast of American Hustle. The film is fun, sexy, fast moving (despite overly long scenes and monologueing) and lightly entertaining in a classic hollywood vein. Although the plot is incredibly predictable that is not its biggest drawback. The film is relatively misogynistic in its point of view that its okay/expected for men to cheat but not for women, although at the same time I get the strong sense that Guitry is critiquing this very thing. On the other hand, perhaps I expect him to be sarcastic and biting in critiquing this gender inequality because Guitry is so earnest and relentless in getting across the point of view that it's not okay for women to have the same sexual independence as men (because it hurts men's feelings and pride). Surely he's sarcastic and not sincere, right? I don't know.

roughly, Guitry plays a newspaper editor, he's covering a big hollywood celebrity (french expat) returning to France in the midst of a sweeping Europe promotional tour. The big star is planning on bedding as many women as possible whilst in Europe and has reserved a suite with two bedrooms to facilitate the improbable number of conquests.

Guitry's wife is a big stage star in france and catches the eye of the big hollywood celebrity. Sparks fly, and sexual congress is inevitable. Guitry's colleague, an ace reporter from another paper is also covering the big hollywood celebrity. more demure sparks fly between Guitry and her. Additionally the hollywood star also would not mind bedding either reporter as well. ;)

Other than the lengthy scenes (I felt like I waited forty five minutes for a scene to end so I could pause the film to go to the bathroom), the film is fast moving and fun, though it is no His Girl Friday, (just as Désiré is no My Man Godfrey), the film is very much in the saucy vein of that film.

And I would totally watch David O Russell's remake of Quadrille with the cast of American Hustle, especially if he shuffled the genders of the characters. :D


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