Wednesday, July 6, 2011

103. Le Roman d'un tricheur/The Story of a Cheat (1936)

Running Time: 85 minutes
Directed By: Sacha Guitry
Written By: Sacha Guitry
Main Cast: Sacha Guitry, Marguerite Moreno, Jacqueline Delubac, Roger Duchesne, Rosine Derean


In early 2010, I was forced to skip over "The Story of a Cheat" due to the fact that I simply couldn't find it. Thanks to the good people over at Criterion, who earlier this year released their 22nd Eclipse Series, taking a look at the work of Sacha Guitry, I was able to see this marvelous film.

The story is narrated by Guitry himself, as he sits at an outside table at a small restaurant, writing his memoirs. We never get a character name, but it is established early that our main character (the Guitry character) is a cheat and so we'll just call him The Cheater. The Cheater grew up in a large family, where he lived with his parents, siblings, grandma, great grandpa and his deaf-mute uncle. The family owned a store and one day the Cheater steals money from the till to buy marbles. When he is caught by his mother, his punishment will be to get no freshly picked mushrooms at dinner that night. As it turns out, the deaf-mute uncle who picked the mushrooms, accidentally picked poisonous fungi and all eleven members of The Cheater's family suddenly die, later that night. The Cheater goes to live with some relatives whom he quickly realizes detest him and at a young age runs away from said relatives and gets a job. He continues to grow, as children do and soon he is no longer a child, but rather a man. He meets women, some of whom use him, but none of whom break his heart. We continue to flashback between the story (which is told with no dialogue, save for the narrator) and The Cheater, writing his memoirs at the table of a restaurant and telling his story to anyone with ears and a willingness to listen, a la "Forrest Gump".

This never happens to me, so I feel I must share the story. So I get "The Story of a Cheat" in the mail, from Netflix and almost like a reflex I read the slip cover that accompanies it. From what I read, it actually sounds really good and almost immediately I start to have a glimmer of high hope. Now normally when I do that, my glimmer of high hope winds up being dashed, but not this time. This time what started out just sounding like a good film, wound up BEING a good film and a new director find in Sacha Guitry. The film was so simple and innocent and in a small way it reminded me of an earlier favorite from the "1001" book, "Le Million". It was a comedy, but it was extremely clever and was rife with coincidental humor and ironic twists of fate. There was a message buried in there somewhere too, I'm sure, but I was more enamored with the story and with Guitry's film itself, that I didn't have time for hidden messages.

The film is so different too. From the opening credits, which instead of just being a scrolling list of names is actually a filmed sequence with Guitry himself introducing the cast, cinematographers, producer and set & costume designers. We then get into the film, and like I said it's kind of like "Forrest Gump" in that you have the main character sitting in public, telling his story and letting all who will hear his story, hear it. Once we get into the flashbacks there is no dialogue, but instead we are constantly accompanied by Guitry who tells us everything we need to know and speaks the necessary, little dialogue that there is, as if he was writing a book - which he is. I've also realized from watching "The Story of a Cheat" something that I've actually known for a while now, but never really fully took notice of it - I love poker/card playing scenes in films. They have the tendency to be so suspenseful and gripping and "The Story of a Cheat" has a few of those, which is always an A+ in my book. In conclusion, this is a really fun, clever, simple film that is filled with coincidental humor and sexual nuances and I would recommend it to anyone, especially people who are looking to get into old/foreign films. It would serve as a great beginner film for both.

RATING: 9/10 By the way, Eclipse Series 22 is the Sacha Guitry one and it looks like I'm going to have to purchase it, because if the other films are like this, then they're surely gems.


July 5, 2011 11:57pm

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