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Fed up with his wife Blandine, an alcoholic shrew, Paul Braconnier decides to get rid of her. But before taking action, the sly fox first consults a lawyer and skilfully finds out from him about the best way to go about murdering her. Back home, as his wife tries to poison him, Paul stabs her to death. The lawyer, who had talked too much, has no other choice but to have his client acquitted, even though this one cheerfully admits his guilt to the court. Paul returns to his village hailed as the local hero. Written by
Guitry could never get over the way he was treated after the Liberation;his "De Jeanne D'Arc A Petain"(1942) (see this title which is never screened on French TV) was not exactly a work longing for freedom and the fact that he was given coal for his town house by the occupying forces led him to a (brief) internment.
Some of his post-war works are bitter,even cynical and made French justice an object of ridicule .If Guitry had been a mediocre director/writer ,his latter days works could have sunk into oblivion ,the work of an aging embittered old duffer ;but Guitry was a master ,with wit ,humor and (yes) genius going for him .At the time,only Henri Jeanson could write as well as he did .
"la Poison" begins with a presentation of all the people who made the movie (proof positive that Guitry was neither self-centered nor ungrateful) ;it was not the first time he had done this ,but this time ,he speaks with the actors,the technicians ,the script girl and it lasts about five minutes .Guitry was the one director in France to show such respect for his collaborators.
It was the first time he had directed Michel Simon ,who is another genius ,one of our five best actors ever .They would team up again in another Guitry's masterpiece ,"La Vie D'Un Honnête Homme " -for the record ,Louis De Funès ,who has a small role in "Poison" ,is in that movie too-If they would redo (God preserve us!) ,I really wonder WHO could reprise this part.Simon is so subtle an actor he is able to show all the tragic side of his character ;the scenes when he eats his dinner with his missus ,an alcoholic shrew, with the radio on so they do not have to talk are sheer genius .
Even the scenes which would seem at first out of place are necessary : the villagers waiting for a miracle,asking the vicar for help ("I can only pray ";and God heard him and took heed of it)At the time , the vicar ,with his servant (La Bonne Du Curé) played a prominent part and he was the local shrink ;Simon visits him before consulting a lawyer.
All the scenes featuring the lawyer are Guitry at his very best ;if you are sick and tired of those movies in which the brilliant lawyer always wins ,"La Poison" was made for you.Reductio Ad Absurdum that justice is unfair and that if you want to be acquitted ,you need a piece of advice from the man of law before you act .As if it were not enough,the children have their own trial too.
Guitry's hatred for justice is even more glaring in his overlooked "Assassins Et Voleurs" .People who liked "La Poison" must see it too.
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