Three narrators (French writer Jean Martin, an English royal equerry, and a papal chamberlain) tell the story of seven matched pearls, four of them now in the British Crown. Episodes whirl ... See full summary »
Honoré Panisse is dying, cheerfully, with friends, wife, and son at his side. He confesses to the priest in front of his friends; he insists that the doctor be truthful. But, he cannot ... See full summary »
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
A Joy, And Everything Great About The French 'Old Wave'
I thought I'd emptied out the mine of great French directors and then just this week discovered Sacha Guitry and am both overjoyed at the riches on display in this film and bewildered at its lack of recognition. It's as good as any French film I've ever seen: why have I never heard of it before?
Everything about La Poison is charming, thoughtful, cheeky, brave and subversive, from the opening scene of the director walking about the set greeting and thanking everyone (literally everyone) that worked on the film to the hilariously frank courtroom scenes at the end, and every frame of Michel Simon throughout. My God, was there ever such an actor? Only the gorgeously hypnotic ugliness of Charles Laughton would seem to compare.
Like the films of Max Ophuls from the same time, Le Ronde and Le Plaisir, these are grown-up films dealing with God, Sex, Death and Existence with both incontestable beauty and brutal honesty at a time when practically all American film was made for children, and feel to me almost like an alternate timeline in which cinema developed without the censorship of the Hays production code of the 30s onwards, a cinema of genuine poetry and art winning out over puritanism and commerce.
The only American films I can think of from this time that are anything like comparable to La Poison are Chaplin's Monsieur Verdoux and Charles Laughton's Night Of The Hunter. Verdoux, a markedly inferior work to this one, got Chaplin hounded out of America for good and Hunter assured Laughton never directed again. Whereas the French loved their great artists and celebrated them for their minds and their magic.
I am reminded too, watching this, how much I prefer the savage and poetic French Old Wave to the empty faddish inanities of the Nouvelle Vague. I will happily take any 20 minutes of La Poison or La Ronde or Boudu Saved From Drowning over every single film by Truffault or Goddard.
This is a practically perfect film in every respect, and the only complaint I can really offer up is that the English subtitles of the two different versions I have found are both not as good as they could be, and with as deliriously barbed dialogue as this, where every line is saying something considered and integral, that's something of a crime in itself.
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