I was released on DVD more than a month ago but my review of the Eclipse set Presenting Sacha Guitry is now featured on the Turner Classic Movies website. The four disc set features four films from the 1930s, Sacha Guitry’s most prolific and creatively exciting period: The Story of a Cheat (1936), arguably his masterpiece and undeniably his first burst of cinematic invention and experimentation, The Pearls of the Crown (1937), Désiré (1937) and Quadrille (1938).
It’s no exaggeration to call Sacha Guitry the Noel Coward of France. On the contrary, it’s an understatement. Playwright, artist, essayist, screenwriter, film director, theatrical impresario, star of stage and screen and all around bon vivant and cultural wit, Guitry was one of the most famous–and prolific–artistic personalities in France between the World Wars. And yet, after directing and starring in more than 30 features between 1935 and 1957, his legacy is practically unknown in the United States, even to film buffs and Francophiles, in part because he never dabbled in Hollywood like fellow stars Maurice Chevalier and Charles Boyer and Jean Gabin, in part because his witty French confections didn’t travel stateside. Presenting Sacha Guitry, a four-disc set from Eclipse (the budget-minded imprint from Criterion), reveals just how creative, innovative and clever a filmmaker he was. Consider it a reintroduction to one of the most important and influential French filmmakers of the thirties.