Thursday, May 19, 2011


Carl, an American movie star (meant to be a Cary Grant/Errol Flynn type, I think) arrives for a quick press jaunt in Paris. He is met by Philippe, a newspaper editor, and Claudine, a writer for a New York paper and a good friend of Paulette, a famous actress with whom Philippe has been living for six years, and to whom he is on the verge of proposing marriage. The handsome Carl sweeps Paulette off her feet; they have a one-night stand after which he leaves, to return in two days. Philippe finds out and isn't quite sure what to think or do; Claudine makes a play for Carl herself; Philippe considers going ahead and marrying Paulette and making Claudine his mistress; Paulette makes a half-hearted stab at suicide, but, this being a romantic comedy, happy endings are in store for all, though not necessarily the ending an American audience will expect.

Sacha Guitry is a French actor, director and playwright, well known in his homeland, but not so known here, probably because he never came to Hollywood and didn't make any English language films. I was glad to finally have the chance to see a Guitry film now that Criterion has issued a 4-movie set. He wrote the film and plays Philippe, and, aside from seeming a bit too old for the part (he looks a good 10-15 years older than the other members of the "quadrille"), he does a fine job. But the real joy in watching this, in addition to witty dialogue and an occasional visual fillip, is in seeing how very differently things play out in this French film than they would have in a Hollywood film of the same era. No bones are made about the live-in relationship between Philippe and Paulette, and fact that Carl sleeps with Paulette is equally crystal clear--he begins undressing her while she's on the phone with Philippe. The movie makes light of infidelity and suicide, and the ending, while not as unconventional as the other elements, probably would not have flown in America. The other actors, none of whom I'd heard of but all of whom are good, are Gaby Morlay as Paulette, Georges Grey as Carl, and Jacqueline Delubac as Claudine (pictured above with Guitry and Grey). I thought this was great fun, but most critics say this is the weakest film in the boxed set, so I’ll have to check the others out. [DVD]

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