La Poison (1951)
1951 / 1:33 / Street Date August 22, 2017
Starring: Michel Simon, Germaine Reuver
Cinematography: Jean Bachelet
Film Editor: Raymond Lamy
Written by Sacha Guitry
Produced by Jean Le Duc, Alain Poiré
Directed by Sacha Guitry
One of the most insightful commentaries on Sacha Guitry’s La Poison can be found right there on the cover of Criterion’s beautiful new blu ray release, a typically “warts and all” portrait by Drew Freidman of the film’s stars, Michel Simon and Germaine Reuver. The film’s diabolic mix of humor and horror is illuminated by Freidman’s precise rendering of Simon’s sagging jowls, Reuver’s venomous stare and the dingy trappings of the cramped little kitchen that threatens to suffocate these damned souls before they can get around to killing each other.
Filmed in just eleven days in 1951 by the speedy Guitry, La Poison tells the story of
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Directed by the prolific actor, screenwriter and playwright Sacha Guitry (1885-1957), a film-maker much admired by the Nouvelle Vague, La Poison is a calculatedly amoral black comedy set in an undistinguished, impoverished French village. He wrote it for Michel Simon (1895-1975), the plug-ugly, gravel-voiced, ungainly, infinitely expressive Swiss-born actor, France's Charles Laughton. Simon plays Paul Braconnier, unhappily married for 30 years to the noisome, charmless alcoholic, Blandine. Both are contemplating murder, Blandine using rat poison, Paul employing information craftily acquired from a lawyer celebrated for winning acquittal for murder suspects. It's a cleverly plotted film, wittily mocking the French legal system, conventional morality and horrors of small-town life. It was made at a time when divorce was almost unthinkable among the poor, and the guillotine was standard punishment for murder.
Simon's outrageously misogynistic Paul is a remarkable creation,
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