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This is a minor masterpiece. It is Guitry at his most cynical - and that's saying a great deal. Michel Simon's wife, presented as a perpetual drunk, has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. The fact that she buys rat poison to do away with her husband, who appears to have no grievous faults, doesn't help her case any. Michel Simon delivers a truly first-rate performance as the husband. You don't feel that he's justified in killing his wife, but you certainly don't feel any regret that he does. Guitry's script, which treats husband-wife relations as a joke to be ridiculed, is delightful in an extremely cynical way. Misanthropy at its finest - whatever that may be.
I watched this movie again tonight, and I marveled - and laughed - at the cynical genius of so much of it. The script is often brilliant, yes, but it is Michel Simon who makes it all work. His every scene is wonderful, but the scene with the lawyer after he has killed his wife, and then the trial scene, are devastatingly marvelous. This is a movie that could have great success as an American remake, updated - but who now could play the Michel Simon part?
If you can deal with so realistic and cynical a view of human nature, you owe it to yourself to see this masterpiece. You may think you're cynical, but you will realize you have nothing on Sacha Guitry when it comes to cynicism.
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