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.)