Sacha Guitry

Sacha Guitry’s films seem to me so immediately and immensely enjoyable that I’ve never understood why he isn’t better known outside France. His freedom of tone and guiltless embrace of theatricality make his work look more audacious and deeply cinematic all the time, and his lasting influence –particularly on Alain Resnais, whose work from “Melo” to “Wild Grass” is unthinkable without Guitry’s example — is unmistakable.

Criterion has now released four of Guitry’s classics — “The Story of a Cheat,” “The Pearls of the Crown,” “Desire,” and “Quadrille,” all made during his amazing burst of creativity between 1935 and 1939 — on their no-frills Eclipse label under the title “Presenting Sacha Guitry,” which should help to focus some long overdue attention on this major filmmaker. (My New York Times review is here.)

The Eclipse set seems to be a bare-bones adaptation of the excellent, eight-film collection, “Sacha Guitry, L’Age d’or,” that Gaumont released in 2007, and one can only hope that Criterion will eventually get around to releasing the other four titles in that box, all of them major works: “Le Nouveau testament, “Faisons un reve,” “Mon pere avait raison,” and “Remontons les Champs-Elysees.” The Gaumont set, which includes a generous selection of (unsubtitled) supplements, remains available here, and the French studio has also released one of the masterpieces of Guitry’s very different postwar period, “La Poison” with Michel Simon, in Blu-ray (available here.)

91 comments to Sacha Guitry

  • Barry Putterman

    Jaime, from the Jerry Lewis entry in Sarris’ “The American Cinema:”

    “The fact that Lewis lacks verbal wit on the screen doesn’t particularly bother the French, who then patiently explain to us what we are missing in Sacha Guitry, which, in turn, is what they are missing in Preston Sturges, particularly in his Paramount Period.”

    Just so you should know that you are not alone in putting the two in the same sentence. Although I must admit that what little I’ve seen of Guitry struck me as more along the lines of Lubitsch than Sturges.

  • IA

    I thought the only unfortunate thing about LES CARNETS DU MAJOR THOMPSON was that it didn’t make more money. It’s a little film and an atypical one for Sturges, but it’s stronger than THE BEAUTIFUL BLONDE FROM BASHFUL BEND. In all likelihood it was a somewhat personal film for him too, given its emphasis on being caught between Anglo-Franco mores. Mind you, I’ve only seen the English-language version–I hear the French version is longer. Is it also better?

  • @ Barry – That’s classic. And yes, of course, Lubitsch is the closer cousin – in my review, I make that pretty clear (as I imagine many writers have), and mention my associations as strictly incidental. (But still worth mentioning.) Which I just posted:

    (I proofread it to within an inch of its life and I’m sure there’s tons of room for improvement, but here goes)

    http://www.unexaminedessentials.com/2009/06/la-poison-sacha-guitry-1951.html

    @ IA – I should have more clarified that I wasn’t making a judgment against the film, which I haven’t seen, but its reputation in general ranges from disappointment to outright disaster. But then, of course, these things can be miscalculated, so perhaps my radar needs to be recalibrated! :) I will see for myself, of course, in due time.

  • Rick K.

    Sidetracking from Guitry for a minute … have a question/observation which I hope someone might be able to help shed some light on for me … concerning recent Blu-ray restorations. I’ve noticed on several titles now that the restored image on Blu-ray SEEMS to be rendered several notches lighter than before, which seems to “bring out” details of the image which may have been somewhat obscured earlier, but renders the image rather pale in comparison with both prior DVD, and (from memory) film projection as well. This comes after looking at the new PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN restoration, which lured me over to the DVD Beaver site, where I’m noticing the same effect on such titles as the new BLACK ORPHEUS from Criterion. I had this same experience with THE GENERAL and Lang’s M (Masters of Cinema edition). In all these cases, I felt it necessary to lower the brightness on my video projector to achieve (what I feel is) the proper contrast level for an accurate picture … this accents the black level and (for me) achieves a more pleasing image.

    There are restoration comparisons in the supplements on the PANDORA disc … the original DVD was obviously TOO dark (though referenced from an original Tech print) while the restoration, produced from the original negative, is inconsistent, much of it seems too pale. Is anyone else experiencing these issues? Perhaps its just a subjective thing, but I can’t help but wonder which way these films are SUPPOSED to look … when DVD Beaver examined Lang’s M, both the Criterion and Masters of Cinema Blu-ray versions were compared, noting that Criterion had boosted the black levels. But one could also say that Masters of Cinema REDUCED the black levels for their version. Perhaps, since we have the option of electronically altering the picture at home (via contrast and brightness), the lighter image is the preferable one, since it does apparently reveal more detail. Any thoughts on this?

  • Rick K.,
    I know when Atom Egoyan was in Ottawa to present “The Adjuster” he criticized its DVD transfer that turned a dark sex sequence into a pornographic affair. On the 35mm projections all you saw was the silhouette of women on top of Elia Kazan while on the DVD everything was revealed. The difference is striking. I much prefer the film projection. Also the actor Maury Chaykin, he played Bubba in “The Adjuster”, recently passed away. A sad lost of a remarkable talent.

  • Barry Putterman

    I second David’s acknowledgement of Maury Chaykin, a wonderful character actor who was also quite memoriable in Egoyan’s THE SWEET HEREAFTER (among many other less heralded films). According ti IMDB, Chaykin died on his birthday.

  • Tom Brueggemann

    Chaikin for a lot of people will be familiar for his thinly veiled caricature of Harvey Weinstein on Entourage the last couple of seasons (thin indeed – the character was named Harvey.)

  • John M

    “On the 35mm projections all you saw was the silhouette of women on top of Elia Kazan while on the DVD everything was revealed.”

    And that’s the typo of the week!

  • I’m looking forward to Kent Jones doc on Elias Koteas

    (sorry couldn’t resist)

  • A fine piece, Jaime. I hope you have a chance to see “La vie d’un honnete homme,” which is in many ways a companion piece to “La Poison” — with even more doubling, this time with Michel Simon as twins!

  • A belated response to Rick K. regarding the relative lightness of the upgraded PANDORA: Yes, I posted something to this effect on my own site (http://www.jonathanrosenbaum.com/?cat=9) about a month ago. Nice to know I’m not the only one who suspected something faulty in the restoration….Similar objections were brought up regarding the brightening of CITIZEN KANE on video many years ago, making it possible to identify some extras in the projection room sequence, for instance.

  • You made my day, Dave! And yes, I hope to see any Guitry that becomes available. That film is available on Amazon.fr, but as near as I can figure, without subtitles. As I said before, I hope Criterion isn’t through with him. And if they are, perhaps the Eclipse set will be successful enough, at its scale, for other labels to take notice.

  • That was a typo, I meant Elias Koteas not Elia Kazan. Pardon for the confusion.

    On a side note. For any Montreal residents, the 34th World Film Festival (Aug. 26 – Sept. 6) announced that Bertrand Tavernier will be accompanying his new film “The Princess of Montpensier”, a love story in 16th century France with the backdrop of the Catholics and Protestants religious war. And apparently they are supposed to be getting “Film Socialisme”.

    For anyone still unfamiliar, Bertrand Tavernier has an insightful DVD review website in French (it’s on Dave K.’s blogroll) where he also graces the comments section.

  • Tom Brueggemann

    Very strange – unless things have changed, that means Toronto won’t be showing either films (they almost never show the same films as Montreal), and both of those are films that would normally make Toronto a priority.

  • Tom Brueggeman,
    The Bertrand Tavernier information is from the World Film Festival website, there is a press release on the subject. My boss at the Canadian Film Institute told me they are getting “Film Socialisme”. The official program is not yet up.

    Here is a link for the films so far for TIFF (http://tiff.net/thefestival/filmsandschedules). Neither of those films are on the list. Though they are getting new films by Mike Leigh, Frederick Wiseman, Werner Herzog, Peter Tscherkassky, Lucien Castaign-Taylor, Raul Ruiz, Errol Moris, James Benning and Woody Allen. Among many other titles.

  • Tom Brueggemann

    Toronto has only announced fewer than 1/3 of its titles. Both the Tavernier and Godard films would almost certainly be in the Masters program (maybe the Godard in Visions), which are yet to be announced.

    I haven’t followed to the same degree in the last couple years, but from when Toronto really became a big deal – late 1980s or so – up until now as far as I know, they basically have taken the position that if a film plays at Montreal, they won’t follow it. (There are very rare exceptions – they showed How I Killed My Mother from the Quebec teen director last year after Montreal).

    So either one of three things is happening going forward – Montreal has somehow elevated itself, Toronto is making further exceptions or they are veering away from automatically playing films from veteran directors that have played at Cannes.

  • Tom, Those are very interesting comments pertaining to the past, and speculations on the future, of the TIFF programming. As well on the differences between the Montreal and Toronto film festival.

    I take it that Xavier Dolan’s “J’ai tué ma mere” (i.e. “I Killed My Mother”) was recently screened in New York as it is reviewed in the July/August 2010 issue of Film Comment. For anyone who liked “J’ai tué ma mere” but had still had reservations about it, I would have to recommend Dolan’s more accomplished second feature, “Les amours imaginaries” (i.e. “Heartbeats”), which premiered this year at Un Certain Regard at Cannes where Xavier Dolan picked up the Prix de la Jeunesse for the second year in a row. I saw it in Hull, QC.

    The story of “Les amours imaginaries” is set in Montreal and is about two twenty-something-year-old friends Francis (Xavier Dolan) and Marie (Monia Chokri) who befriend and fall for a recent out-of-towner Nicolas (Niels Schneider). Xavier Dolan seems more at ease in “Les amours imaginaries” as he deals with the neurosis of relationships during the university years unlike “J’ai tué ma mere” that seemed solipsistic as it dealt with debilitating angst and adolescence. In both cases the filmmaking is revelatory.

  • Tom Brueggemann

    Educated guess here – Since IFC has the Tavernier in the US (which means limited theatrical play, focus on cable video on demand), while the film will be play theatrically in Quebec, a launch at Montreal could make more sense in terms of marketing.

    Still, if there is any chance that France would submit the Tavernier as its foreign language entry, playing at Toronto would make more sense – with one caveat – Departures, the 2008 Oscar winner, won top prize at Montreal and didn’t play at Toronto. If it is in competition, the producers might hope winning the top prize might be part of the argument to be France’s choice.

  • This is from the World Film Festival website:

    Bertrand Tavernier, director of The Princess of Montpensier, will be in Montreal to accompany his new film at the closing program of the 34th Montreal World Film Festival on September 6. “Bertrand Tavernier is not only a great director, he is a living encyclopedia of the cinema, a man who embodies the full meaning of cineaste,” remarked MWFF president Serge Losique. “That is why we are especially proud that his latest feature, which is set in a troubled era in the history of France, will grace our screen as the Festival’s closing film.”

    France, 1562. The wars of religion between Catholics and Protestants rage against a backdrop of intrigue and shifting alliances. Marie de Mézières, a beautiful young aristocrat, and Henri de Guise, one of the kingdom’s most intrepid heroes, are in love, but Marie’s father promises her hand in marriage to the Prince of Montpensier. The prince takes Marie back to his chateau, where she is tutored by Chabannes, the Protestant deserter he protects, who soon falls in love with the young woman. Then, on their way back from battle, Henri de Guise and the Duke d’Anjou, the heir to the throne, stop at the chateau. Henri and Marie realize their feelings for each other are as strong as ever…

    The Princess of Montpensier stars Lambert Wilson, Mélanie Thierry, Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet, Gaspard Ulliel and Raphaël Personnaz. Axia Films is distributing the film in Canada, which is scheduled to be released in early 2011.

  • Peter Henne

    Rick K. and Jonathan Rosenbaum, I’ve been doing some handwringing over the Kino blu-ray of PANDORA myself. If we can expect this very darkened source to vary, between bad and worse, then I can live with the inconsistencies that Rick mentions. It seems as though there must have been some substantial guesswork going from “before” to “after,” judging from the six-minute comparison extra on the disc. The amber-gold of light fixtures recurring throughout the film may have been a guidepost for lining up the other colors but might also explain all the auburn as a residual effect: hitch that to “reasonable” flesh tones and tweek a bit within a “reliable” and relatively narrow range for Technicolor ocean blue and you’ve started toward making a restored color palette. I agree with Rick that some brightening was called for, and of course there is a price to be paid for doing that too. What I’d like to know is what historical research was done into the original production? Were production notes and photographs available for reference? In deference to Jonathan, no, I haven’t seen the film projected in any state. Nonetheless the visual details on the blu-ray don’t seem like out-and-out lies to me, unlike what I’ve come to feel about some other digital restorations which seem to reach for a newness, and even saturating colors pleasing to modern audiences, that will take breaths away but at too much expense to authenticity. The restorers for PANDORA seem to close in on the aesthetic effect of colors wildly pronounced but put under a creamy filter that is hinted at in the previous Kino release, while allowing they won’t fully arrive because the materials at their disposal are what they are, badly damaged. Notice the supple definition of Gardner’s skin along her collarbone, for example, in the several low-cut gowns she wears-isn’t that just the look it should be? My best guess, and it can only be that, is that the new Kino is a responsible representation of the film on disc.

  • david hare

    The only person who could have truly given the nod was Cardiff who of course died before this restoration was completed (and indeed the stunning digital resto of Red Shoes. Of course Shoes had considerable stewardship from a lot of other people.)

    There are a few things at play with the new Pandora. First what it seems to display to me with the higher shadow detail is a different,lighter gamma to the old prints(i.e. depth/confluence of grayscale/ white and black levels and color temp.) That’s something the restorers CAN do now with Blu Ray at least and its much higher resolution and stability than SD video. The point is (look at Jonathan’s second caps in the room) the old version LOSES the shadow detail, and surely the new version shows – correctly -what and how the set was lit.

    Same thing in the Blu Red Shoes – the details are so refined you can see Cardiff’s use of a reflector on Vicki dressed in gown and tiara ascending the overgrown stairs at Monte Carlo at twilight in which the reflector bounces ahead of her figure and seems to lead her up the stairs , like a guiding star. I dont recall ever seeing this detail in any of a dozen 35mm viewing starting in 1962. But it’s there now!!

    Michael Kerpan has complained elsewhere that the new BFI Bluray of Late Spring appears to display blown out whites, citing as key the shots of the raked gravel garden, which on his monitor lose all the detail of the raking. But a number of us with projectors and calibrated settings can see the raking perectly. Indeed the transfer is breathtaking (Early Summer is even more breathtaking and they’ve worked miracles with the Blu Tokyo Story as well.)

    Blu/ HD is a whole new ballpark for video display, principally I think as an experience far closer to watching film. But it’s worth remaining vigilant about these sorts of issues.

  • “Blu/ HD is a whole new ballpark for video display, principally I think as an experience far closer to watching film. But it’s worth remaining vigilant about these sorts of issues.”

    True. The advent of DVD created a new subculture of criticism, a very interesting hybrid of technical writing and aesthetic appreciation. I don’t remember this being the case during the VHS era, although maybe those of us who invested in laserdisc technology can say different.

    One thing that is making an insurgence into home viewing is downloading. I don’t mean ripping an illegal copy of AVATAR or TWILIGHT: NEW MOON or STEP UP 3-D. Many older films, auteurist gems, or foreign films, or a convergence of all three, are simply lost in cinematic limbo, more often than not due to amnesia and neglect, and they are appearing on torrent sites, often accompanied by “fan subtitling” (which is, in and of itself, when done right, an unsung heroic act of cultural preservation). These are movies that may or may not – likely not – see the light of day on consumer home video. I don’t wish to open the “right or wrong” debate about downloading: these are movies that, for example, are broadcast on New Zealand cable television at 3:00 AM local time, and one intrepid, caffeinated soul snatches it from oblivion, for the benefit of maybe a hundred other like-minded connoisseurs around the globe. The sort of thing that went on the instant the VCR became a piece of consumer hardware, only this time the internet has replaced bubble-lined envelopes and surreptitious e-mail correspondence.

    And, circling back to David Hare’s comment, the proximity of the presentation to the Platonic ideal remains very much an issue in the conversation, although of course the bar is set a bit lower.

  • david hare

    Jaime, virtually everything I obtain now is either paid for commercial BluRay, or avi downloads. With infrequent DVDs like the silent Sternbergs (which should have been BluRay to begin with.) The whole conversation about Gremillon earlier could not have arisen without the bittorrent/collector community and the endless work of people – saints as you suggest – who literally salvaged ancient, long OOP vhs or TV recordings, or 16mm or kinescopes from oblivion. And others who have subsequently performed service beyond duty writing and remuxing subtitles into video files. I dont even stop to consider legal issues in cases like these where the total inertia or anti-uncommercial nature of titles and directors seems to preclude ever otherwise seeing these films in any form whatsoever. Interestingly there’s a level of bitrate (above 27 kb/s) above which an avi file can easily look quite as good as a “regular” dvd if the source is good to begin with. So the bar for quality on a lot of this material is not necessarily that low!

    On that susbject a very good print of Ford’s Black Watch coming within 24 hours to a back room near you (via Cinema de Minuit.)

  • Peter Henne

    David, Though I don’t understand all of the technical facets, what you said about gaining higher shadow detail intuitively sounds right. Surely the restorers used a procedure restricted and highly sensitive to trace outlines and details within areas of dark. Though I speculated the guessing game might have been wide open, the results don’t convey so much haphazardness but a surprising amount of detail that looks convincing within a plausible aesthetic for the film. Thanks for your response.

  • Rick K.

    I’m getting a better perspective on the PANDORA blu-ray controversy … the images that Jonathan Rosenbaum posted on his website illustrate well some of the issues involved. Yet as David Hare points out regarding the Ozu blu-ray, different monitors can yield different results. I’m not very fluent on technical terms, but I recall that my first video projector (a rather economical, and I’m sure now extinct, Sharp LCD unit) had a gamma control with several settings, and that by changing the gamma level, the image would indeed change appearance and texture superficially similar to the before/after comparisons that Jonathan posted. So I understand how changing the gamma during a restoration can give the appearance of “bleaching” the image, which is how I can best describe my feelings towards some of the PANDORA blu-ray. Yet, this was never an issue with either THE RED SHOES or BLACK NARCISSUS on blu-ray, both of which seem quite exquisite from beginning to end, with a richness and density to die for. There was certainly no need for me to adjust my brightness/contrast levels for either of these films. But PANDORA simply looked better with my brightness turned way down, but not consistently so … the night scenes became TOO contrasty via this setting, which of course hampered my viewing. So I’m at odds with this particular disc, though I’ve still confidently “retired” my old DVD version, since the blu-ray does indeed improve substantially in virtually all the other areas of appreciation.

    Thought I heard somewhere that the old PANDORA disc was authored from a 35mm print owned by Martin Scorsese, who always expressed great fondness for this film, although I don’t know if he was involved at all with the recent restoration. As David mentioned, it’s indeed sad that Jack Cardiff is no longer with us, as he would probably have been pleased to provide input. I just watched the new Cardiff documentary CAMERAMAN, released on DVD in England, in which the man who virtually defined excellence in Technicolor photography during its heyday, was also very happy to embrace new innovations, wished to KEEP WORKING, and would no doubt have been most interested in the hi-def restorations of his films via evolving technologies (providing authoritative comment along the way). Incidentally, the documentary disc has some great supplements, including fascinating behind-the-scenes footage shot by Cardiff on 16mm (Kodachrome) only partially used in the documentary, including some scenes from the aborted WILLIAM TELL with Errol Flynn, to have been Cardiff’s inaugural directorial stint. How I’d LOVE to see more of that project!!

  • Peter Henne

    Rick, I don’t think we can get PANDORA looking so lickity-split new as the Criterion re-release for THE RED SHOES just because the elements for the Lewin are so degraded. Looking at the “before” pictures against the new restoration, what they did elicit and seemingly legitimately from so much darkened space looks like a magnificent accomplishment, even allowing some question remains over how bright the film should be. I’m glad the film causes less strain to enjoy, with so much more of its style present to trace out, than what was previously available on DVD and VHS before that.

  • Rick K.

    Peter, yes, my expectations were probably pretty high for the PANDORA blu-ray. Have always thought of PANDORA as something of a cult film, myself a longstanding, dues-paying member (as evidenced from the blu-ray, dvd and laserdisc editions on my shelf). As one of those filmic orphans apparently snared by the Rohauer domain, I didn’t really expect the original negative to surface (hence the “archive print” used as source material previously), and because of the film’s uneven reputation, would have doubted that a full-scale restoration would take place, even if those materials still existed. So I was very surprised and pleased to hear about the blu-ray, which for me blossomed to a “hidden agenda” … being that a gorgeous blu-ray would serve to enhance and broaden the fan base for this not-very-well-known film by virtue of its visual splendors. Anyway, I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed after the exemplary results on the two Powell films. Alas, my hopes of a full-scale PANDORA revival have been somewhat dampened, not that I don’t appreciate all the effort that went into its restoration. It also adds to my hopelessness when mentioning PANDORA to students in film class, expecting to evoke imagery from Pabst or Lewin, but obviously inducing visions of a flashy 3-D planet instead.

  • Alex Hicks

    I just caught, amidst a Southeastern beach vacation, the “Twilight Visons: Surrealism, Photography and Paris” exhibit at Savannah’s Telfair Museum of Art. A great show coveringa lot of surrealist photography and film by Kertész, Man Ray, Bing, Breitenbach, Brassaï, Bunueal. As the show is wending its way out from its origins at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville to great reviews , I suspect it might get anywhere, even NYC.

    Questions: Is it reasonable to include “L’Atalante” among its films? (I’ve never though of this second Vigo, unlike ZERO, as surrealist.)

    Is it reasonable to link poetic realism (specifically “Le quai des brumes” and “Hotel du Nord”) to surrealism?

    Do any of Guitry’s romantic comedies every veer into surrealism as U.S. ones (e.g., “Bringing Up Baby”) sometimes do?

    On another note,PANDORA’S BOX has always seemed gorgeous enough to me to be considered great in all its various releases, and less a “cult” film than a film that calls for a taste for high romanticism. Of course, a film calling for a very special taste might be considered “cult,” but I think it’s especially “camp” tastes and enthusiams that define “cult” films, not anything so mainstream as romanictism. (Wagner is neither “camp” nor “cult.”)

  • Junko Yasutani

    ‘Is it reasonable to link poetic realism (specifically “Le quai des brumes” and “Hotel du Nord”) to surrealism?’

    It is depending on viewer. Surrealist viewer know surrealism, but outside viewer does not know and must guess. I trust writing about surrealism if writer is surrealist. If writer is not surrealist, writer is revealing about misunderstanding. When outside art critic writes about surrealism, often it is like colonialist describing occupied country.

  • Barry Putterman

    Alex, “cult” is little more than a condescending pejorative that can be applied to any sort of minority taste. The number of people among those who regularly go to the movies that consider it to be a serious art form can be called a cult. The number of those moviegoers who see film as a serious art form and then subscribe to some version of auteurism and follow davekehr.com is most certainly a cult. We simply don’t have t-shirts and decoder rings to sanction it. An alarming omission which I hope will soon be rectified.

  • LucPmrl

    Glad to see a wider US audience will get a chance to get better acquainted with Guitry. The Gaumont set is one of my prized possessions and it is unfortunate that the enjoyable and informative supplements got lost in the transition; of course, ultimately it is the films themselves that we should most care about. Perhaps if this set sells briskly enough, the 4 oher features, along with the shorter “Le Mot de Cambronne”, will also be issued in NA.

    Along with La Poison, I will put in a good word for Le Diable Boiteux, in which Guitry portrays Talleyrand, the French diplomat who served indifferently the series of republican governements, emperors and kings under which France alternated in the first half of the 19th century. Flawed as history of course, but a delicious and wry performance by the star-director.

    Guitry was indeed not considered part of the “cinema de qualité” tradition, probably because he was always very conscious of the respective conventions and artifices of both theater and cinema, and loved to play with them and mix them together.

    It is unfortunate that he got stuck at one point in a series of bloated pseudo-historical retrospective patchworks like Si Versailles M’était Conté, which get formulaic and tired very quickly.

    And speaking of tired, Sturges Carnets du Major Thompson is no better in French than in English. Time has been even less kind to it than to the original Daninos book I believe.

  • Mike Grost

    My auteurist decoder ring suggests that Marcel L’Herbier’s La Nuit fantastique (1942) is a good French film that needs reviving. It used to be out on VHS. As it deals wittily with the line between dreams and reality, it might be described as the Inception of current trends. Lots of clever plot ideas and imagery.
    *
    Simenon’s early fiction shows the influence of British police detective novels of the 1920’s. Especially Freeman Wills Crofts, at one time the most famous author of such stories. My web site on mystery history discusses the likely influence of Crofts books like The Pit-Prop Syndicate (1922) and The Box Office Murders (1929) on Simenon’s first Maigret novel M. Gallet décédé (1931) and on La Nuit du carrefour (Maigret at the Crossroads) (1931).
    Still haven’t managed to see Renoir’s film version.

  • @ David Hare – If you are ever in New York, we should talk! Especially if you are gathering rare Fords.

    @ Mike Grost – I hope you have the chance to see LA NUIT DU CARREFOUR. It is amazing. A subtitled version is making its rounds through the “bittorrent community.” Jean’s brother Pierre plays Maigret. Pierre is also the one Jean Renoir regular in LA MARSEILLAISE (as Louis XVI) who really distinguished himself against that film’s quite overwhelming backdrop. Given that and LA NUIT DU CARREFOUR, I have to wonder if Pierre isn’t a little underrated in the Renoir stable of actors.

    @ Everyone – Undoubtedly we are now aware that we have lost Patricia Neal. What a great lady and a great actress. I’ve already seen several mentions of HUD and THE FOUNTAINHEAD, so I’ll go with IN HARM’S WAY and A FACE IN THE CROWD. And her presence in the Ross McElwee doc/essay BRIGHT LEAVES is crucial; a galvanizing couple of minutes.

  • jean-pierre coursodon

    Mike, my memory of LA NUIT FANTASTIQUE, seen in or around 1983 at MOMA, is of a lame, slightly idiotic effort. But I’ll give it another chance should it resurface some day.

    Junko: is there such a thing in this day and age as a “surrealist viewer”?

    Surrealism and surrealist are terms that have been degraded as much as “film noir” — to the point that they no longer mean anything.

    Alex: nothing is more remote from surrealism than Guitry’s films (but then I don’t see the “surrealism” in BABY unless you have come up with a brand new definition of the word (see also my previous paragraph).

    The French neo-surrealist cinephiles in the fifties were great admirers of PANDORA.

  • Alex Hicks

    jean-pierre: I think of surrealism as providing the viewer with a world that is sympomatic of the unconsious and/or insanity of some of that world’s characters or the creator or both.

    It seems to me we may be in such a world in the two-leopard night time sequences of BABY, which seem to me fantastic in the proto-surrealist mode of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM or THE TEMPEST and inhabited not by mere feline comic props but by leopards that are as psycologcally resonant, in their own comic style, as the cats of Lewton’s cat people films.

    Very conjectural, I’ll aggree.

  • Junko Yasutani

    ‘is there such a thing in this day and age as a “surrealist viewer”?’

    Since there is still true surrealist poet and artist there is viewer understanding surrealism. Maybe there are not so many in this day and age.

    ‘Surrealism and surrealist are terms that have been degraded as much as “film noir” — to the point that they no longer mean anything.’

    Yes, you are right Jean-Pierre, terms has been degraded, not referring to authentic surrealism.

  • Junko Yasutani

    ‘I think of surrealism as providing the viewer with a world that is sympomatic of the unconsious and/or insanity of some of that world’s characters or the creator or both.’

    It is not insanity. Surrealism is referring to marvelous world, beauty, love and erotic life. True surrealism is exaltation of marvelous in life.

  • Rick K.

    Junko … I think surrealism can extend beyond the limitations you suggest. Of course PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN would fall into your criteria, and films like PETER IBBETSON and much of Sternberg. But how about films like THE UNKNOWN (Browning) and comic surrealism (Stan Laurel termed it “white magic”, which extends to Jerry Lewis as well … I think THE BELLBOY is surrealist).

  • Junko Yasutani

    ‘But how about films like THE UNKNOWN (Browning) and comic surrealism (Stan Laurel termed it “white magic”, which extends to Jerry Lewis as well … I think THE BELLBOY is surrealist).’

    I have not seen THE UNKNOWN, but comic surrealism is is marvelous in comic form, and sometimes it is erotic in comic form. Keaton movie has much surrealism too.

  • […] which I had time to do view. Dave Kehr reports, in his weekly DVD column for the New York Times and on his blog, that this appears to be half of a Guitry box set released in France by Gaumont in 2007, which […]

  • Peter Hogue

    LA NUIT DU CARREFOUR available on DVD from Movies Unlimited… Thanks to Michael Kastner for the tip on this (in “Walsh at War” comments on Aug. 9, if you missed it). I also found Renoir’s LE CRIME DE MONSIEUR LANGE at the same site.

    LA NUIT… is a strange experience, an early talkie with odd pacing and an experimental mise en scene. Not really like any other Renoir, but really fascinating on several counts…