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Preface: Because this review is already quite late, this Limited Edition collection is an incredibly substantial time commitment, and because I was completely unaware of director Alexandre-Pierre Georges "Sacha" Guitry’s work before I watched these four films, this relatively short review will focus on the technical aspects of the disc, rather than the critical aspects of the films themselves.
 
Here is the official Arrow byline on the subject:
Quote: Sacha Guitry has been referred to as the Gallic Noël Coward - a celebrated polymath who worked as a stage actor, film actor, director, screenwriter, and as an acclaimed playwright. Four Films 1936-1938 brings together a quartet of 1930s features by Guitry, each based on his own, earlier works for the theatre.

This set presents some of Guitry’s most enjoyable works for the first time on Blu-ray with each film amply displaying the versatile talents of this unique performer and artist.


The New Testament

(French: Le Nouveau testament; aka: Indiscretions, 1936)
A holier-than-thou physician, Le docteur Marcelin (Sacha Guitry), is scuppered by his own hypocrisy. (From Arrow’s official synopsis)

Guitry’s third feature as lead director, writer, and star, based on his own stage play, was his first big popular breakthrough. It is, as far as I can tell, a good entry point as well – one that helps set the tone and pace of the filmmaker/star’s humour. The New Testament has similarities to the then-budding Hollywood screwball tradition, such as rapid-fire sarcasm and one-on-one snark sessions, but Guitry’s direction isn’t as slick as, say, Howard Hawks’. In this case, the film’s stage play foundation is consistently clear, excepting some remarkably dynamic and speedily edited exterior sequences, and its plotting ends up outweighing its witty banter.

 Sacha Guitry: Four Films 1936-1938

 Sacha Guitry: Four Films 1936-1938

Sacha Guitry: Four Films 1936-1938

My Father was Right

(French: Mon père avait raison, 1936)
After being left by his wife for another man, Charles (Sacha Guitry) raises his son to be wary of women. (From Arrow’s official synopsis)

My Father was Right, which was released shortly after The New Testament, follows similar storytelling and dialogue patterns, features a limited cast of characters with direct family relations, and is also largely confined to a solitary, stage-like location. Clearly, Guitry had a formula and was happy to indulge in it. My Father was Right has a relatively modern slant on not-so-sagely fatherly advice, but its misogyny (occasionally ironically so) and off-puttingly preachy subject matter doesn’t quite have the same timeless silliness of The New Testament’s convoluted infidelities.

 Sacha Guitry: Four Films 1936-1938

 Sacha Guitry: Four Films 1936-1938

 Sacha Guitry: Four Films 1936-1938

Let’s Make a Dream…

(French: Faisons un rêve…, 1936)
A husband, his wife, and their two lovers discover the depths of their infidelity. (From Arrow’s official synopsis)

Let’s Make a Dream… is a more ambitious picture than the first two in terms of its cinematic language (there are loads of somewhat crude, long-take tracking shots throughout the party scenes) and eclectic character types. Though it shares a lot in common thematically and tonally with The New Testament, the jokes are tied more tightly to the plot and characters, rather than situations and arguments. It’s not necessarily funnier (in fact, it’s definitely less funny), but it feels like a more refined version of Guitry’s stage play aesthetic. Unfortunately, it is also the slowest moving film in the set and unrelentingly misogynistic in a manner that isn’t forgivable within the context of the era. The director’s distaste for women is pointed and tyring.

 Sacha Guitry: Four Films 1936-1938

 Sacha Guitry: Four Films 1936-1938

 Sacha Guitry: Four Films 1936-1938

Let’s Go Up the Champs-Élysées

(French: Remontons les Champs-Élysées, 1938)
Guitry himself plays multiple characters in this tale of one of France’s most famous streets. (From Arrow’s official synopsis)

Let’s Go Up the Champs-Élysées is a refreshingly different experience than the other three films in this collection. It’s a period piece, it was shot on multiple locations, and it feels like a proper motion picture (emphasis on the ‘motion’), instead of another filmed play. Guitry utilizes more sophisticated filmmaking techniques, such as montage editing and special effects, and flexes his performance muscles as multiple characters, each with their own comedic personalities. The lightning-fast, history-skipping pace is a bit overwhelming, but it punches up the comedy, adds a considerable layer of drama, and ensures that Let’s Go Up the Champs-Élysées is never boring.

 Sacha Guitry: Four Films 1936-1938

 Sacha Guitry: Four Films 1936-1938

 Sacha Guitry: Four Films 1936-1938

Video


All four transfers were supplied by Gaumont in France directly to Arrow in the UK. The included booklet only mentions that the footage was culled from original film elements, it doesn’t specify if they were camera negatives or print sources, or if they were scanned in 2K or 4K. Whatever the source and scan, the results are pretty consistent throughout each of the 1.33:1, black & white transfers. The elements appear to have been in pretty good shape, despite their age, and there’s relatively minor print damage. The typical artefacts are small white flecks, but there are some considerable vertical streaks across some shots. My Father Was Right is probably the strongest of the four in terms of the richness of its gradations, but it also exhibits the most consistent pulsing effects (not to mention a few splash stains that never really go away). The other three transfers have problems with scanner noise and compression, specifically when it comes to film grain and gradation transitions. Let’s Go Up the Champs-Élysées is the weakest in this regard, due largely to its softer contrast levels, which leave everything a bit grey and hazy. Overall, this is still a solid release, especially considering the fact that Arrow didn’t take the time to dig in on a full top-to-bottom remaster.

Audio


Each film is presented in its original French mono and uncompressed LPCM. Given their age and, likely, the condition of the original materials, I’m surprised by the depth of the sound fields, specifically during outdoor sequences. Dialogue-heavy interiors are evenly mixed and consistent in terms of volume, though tonally compressed, as we’d expect from the period. That said, there are quantifiable cases of distinctive aural damage and distortion peppered throughout this entire set. The second-to-last reel of The New Testament and the middle/end sections of My Father was Right have issues with particularly buzzy and muffled vocals. Adolphe Borchard composed the scores for My Father Was Right and Let’s Go Up the Champs-Élysées (with the help of several generations’ worth of classical composers), while the brief musical interludes from the other films go uncredited (since Let’s Make a Dream… opens with a musical number from a six-piece string group conducted by Jacques Zarou, I’m going to assume that he was working from traditional pieces).

Extras


Disc One: The New Testament and My Father Was Right:
  • Introduction to Sacha Guitry by Ginette Vincendeau (12:10, HD) – The professor of film studies at King's College London and author of Stars and Stardom in French Cinema (2000) gives a quick, but thorough overview of Guitry career and life.
  • Selected scene commentaries by Vincendeau:
    • The New Testament (6:48, HD)
    • My Father Was Right (4:58, HD)
  • Creatures féroces (6:15, HD) – A visual essay by author Philippe Durant detailing Guitry's not particularly flattering representation of women in his films.
  • L’Émail des mots (6:59, HD) – A second essay by Durant that focuses on Guitry’s way with language.
  • Pascal Thomas on My Father Was Right (6:54, SD) – The French writer/director ( Les zozos, 1973) discusses Guitry’s speedy filmmaking habits and the ways he adapted his play to screen.

Disc Two: Let's Make a Dream... and Let's Go Up the Champs-Élysées:
  • Selected Scene Commentaries by Ginette Vincendeau
    • Let's Make a Dream (8:56, HD)
    • Let's Go Up the Champs-Élysées (3:50, HD)
  • Mon fils avait raison (4:26, HD) – Another Durant video essay detailing the representation of children in Guitry's films.
  • Francis Veber on Let's Make a Dream. . . (7:54, SD) – The filmmaker, whose work includes Hollywood releases Three Fugitives (1989) and Out on a Limb (1992), discusses Guitry’s career and influence.
  • Let's Make a Dream... sound tests (5:24, HD)
  • Let's Make a Dream… trailer


* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-rays, then resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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