Presenting Sacha Guitry [Criterion Collection] [4 Discs] [DVD]

Though not as commonly recognized today as other pre-New Wave French directors such as Marcel Carné and Jean Renoir, Sacha Guitry (1885-1957) once claimed legions of fans in France. Often drawing comparison to Noël Coward, Guitry was essentially a playwright who embarked on a cinematic career as a means of attaining broader exposure. In lieu of filming stagy material, however, Guitry enlisted radical cinematographic techniques that were years ahead of their time. This edition of The Criterion Collection's Eclipse series brings four Guitry features to American audiences for the very first time. It includes: The Story of a Cheat (1936), with the director himself starring as a wily and conniving card shark; The Pearls of the Crown (1937), the tale of how the various pearls of England's crown originated and the journeys they took before arriving on the diadem of the British monarch; Désiré (1937), with Guitry as a Machiavellian butler who repeatedly seduces various mistresses; and Quadrille (1938), a bubbly sex comedy about several characters whose lives intersect in a posh Parisian hotel.
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Les Perles De La Couronne
Originally titled Les Perles de Couronne, this Sacha Guitry historical extravaganza stars both Guitry and his wife Jacqueline Delubac. The plotline hinges on four valuable pearls, which pass from hand to hand over a period of several centuries, from the time of Britain's Henry VIII to the present. All of this is offered in flashback form, as a group of modern-day treasure hunters try to locate three of the missing pearls by tracing them back to their previous owners. Guitry shows up as King Francis I, Barras and Napoleon III, in addition to his contemporary persona of Jean Martin; Debulac is seen as Mary Queen of Scots and Empress Josephine. There isn't a scintilla of historical accuracy in the film, nor did Guitry have the slightest intention of including any; his sole purpose was to entertain the audience and serve up a superbly ironic denoument. The supporting cast is a polyglot of French, English and Italian actors, each speaking in his or her own language. The screenplay for Pearls of the Crown was cowritten by Guitry and another immensely talented filmmaker, Christian-Jaque. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Le Roman d'un Tricheur
The Story of a Cheat (Le Roman d'un Tricheur) is widely regarded as one of French writer/director Sacha Guitry's best and most personal films. Guitry himself stars as a charismatic cardsharp who survives solely through the auspices of Lady Luck. The story is told almost completely in pantomime; the only voice heard is the narrator's (Guitry, but of course). Among the film's many highlights is the opening sequence, in which the young Guitry misbehaves and is banned from a family picnic--where his parents and siblings all die from eating toadstools. This segues into a side-splitting "black" gag in which an exhausted priest huffs and puffs as he tries to keep pace with the long line of coffins! It has sometimes been suggested that Sacha Guitry was telling his own life story in Story of a Cheat, equating the ins and outs of the film industry with the chicanery of the cardsharp. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Sacha Guitry
    Sacha Guitry
  • Image coming soon
    Jacqueline Delubac
  • Gaby Morlay
    Gaby Morlay
  • Pauline Carton
    Pauline Carton

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