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Sacha Guitry: Four Films 1936-1938
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.37:1 Standard
  • French Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • French PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 4 Discs
FEATURES
  • Introduction and interview with Ginette Vincendeau
  • Four visual essays
  • Interviews
  • Sound tests
  • Trailer
  • 60-page limited edition book featuring new writing on the films

Sacha Guitry: Four Films 1936-1938

Dual-Format Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Sacha Guitry
2018 | 363 Minutes

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $69.95 | Series: Arrow Academy
MVD Visual

Release Date: March 27, 2018
Review Date: April 10, 2018

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SYNOPSIS

Four Films 1936-1938 brings together a quartet of 1930s features by Sacha Guitry, the celebrated French filmmaker, playwright and actor of the stage and screen, each based on his earlier works. Indiscretions (Le Nouveau testament) follows a holier-than-though physician who is scuppered by his own hypocrisy. My Father Was Right (Mon père avait raison) tells off a man who, after being left by his wife for another man, raises his son to be wary of women. Let's Dream is another story of mistrust, between husband, wife and lovers. And the history of one of France's most famous streets is retold in Up the Champs-Elyses (Remontons les Champs-Elyses), featuring multiple performances from Guitry himself. Available for the first time on Blu-ray this set presents some of Guitry's earliest and most enjoyable works.


PICTURE

Arrow Academy presents the limited edition dual-format box set Sacha Guitry Four Films 1936 – 1938. The set includes The New Testament, My Father Was Right, Let’s Make a Dream…, and Let’s Go Up the Champs-Élysées. The films are presented in 1080p/24hz high-definition over two dual-layer Blu-ray discs, two films on each disc. Standard definition versions are also presented on two dual-layer DVDs, again with two films on each disc. All four films are presented in the aspect ratio of 1.37:1.

The notes on the restorations found in the set’s included booklet indicates that the transfers and restorations used for this release were conducted by Gaumont and supplied to Arrow pretty much as-is (the notes make no mention of Arrow doing any further restoration/corrective efforts). On the whole they all look very good, surprisingly good actually, at least in terms of their digital presentation. All four have fairly filmic looks to them, rendering grain decently enough and delivering the details where possible. Contrast and gray levels are adequate, though I thought a few brighter sequences, at least in The New Testament, could look a little blown out. Past that blacks are fairly decent, a bit milky in places maybe, but strong and tonal shifts look clean.

Where the image is held back primarily is just in general condition of the materials. I will say I was still quite surprised how clean the materials look as—in the grand scheme of things—damage is minimal. The New Testament may come off the best if I had to pick one, though it is a bit tight. All four films show some minor scratches and bits of dirt, and there can be a bit of flicker here and there, with My Father Was Right and Let’s Make a Dream… showing more of a flicker. Damage can also be a bit heavier in certain films, Let’s Make a Dream… show a few more obvious mold stains (or at least the remnants of them). Let’s Make a Dream… probably also comes off the softest, I assume because of less than ideal elements, while Let’s Go Up the Champs-Élysées has moments that come off softer (primarily in the first half) than others along with some rough transitions.

Despite any short comings material-wise these do all still come off looking quite marvelous in the end and I definitely appreciate Arrow’s effort in getting these films out on Blu-ray, where if they ended up with Criterion they would have most assuredly been relegated to the DVD-only Eclipse line (they have already released one). The presentations here ultimately show that even if the materials are less-than-stellar a full high-def image still offers a significant upgrade over what DVD can offer.

7/10

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AUDIO

All four films deliver lossless French PCM 1.0 mono tracks. In all four cases the quality of the track ultimately comes down to source materials. All of them are fairly flat and lack fidelity though then present their own issues. The New Testament opens a bit crackly while the rest of the film sounds better. I found My Father Was Right to show more signs of distortion and some edge to the dialogue while the others are generally fine, though all four do present audible background noise in places. Ultimately I think they are what they are, just products of their respective ages.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Another advantage to Arrow releasing these films as opposed to Criterion just throwing them into an Eclipse set is that Arrow actually puts together a decent set of features, with the set ultimately working as an introduction for those just coming to Guitry’s work.

Arrow has first employed Ginette Vincendeau for a few features found in the set, starting with a 12-minute introduction found on the first disc. Here she talks about his career as a playwright and his eventual move to film, despite not thinking highly of the medium. Though she talks glowingly of his humour and his performances she admits to being conflicted because if his attitude towards women, which she calls misogynistic.

This then carries on to the four select-scene audio commentaries she provides for each film, presented as separate features and only running 4 to 9-minutes each, with two available on the first disc and two on the second. During these she talks briefly about each film, giving some backstory if they are based on a play before focusing on specific elements to each film, or a specific clip. She expands a bit on Guitry’s views on women while covering My Father Was Right and Let’s Make a Dream…, and then goes over the different “types” of films Guitry made, using the first three as examples of what were more like “filmed plays” then Let’s Go Up the Champs-Élysées as an example of the “comic history.” She does spend 9-minutes on Lets Make a Dream…, with focus on the lengthy telephone sequence, which she calls one of her favourite sequences in his films. Though they’re short they specifically point out the pleasures she takes from the films, as well as the things she just finds distasteful.

Arrow then seems to be reusing features produced for another release (I’m going to take the wild guess it was a French release), four essays by scholar Philipe Durant. Disc one presents Creatures féreces (around 6-minutes) looks at the women in Guitry’s films while L’email des mots (around 7-minutes) looks at Guitry’s dialogue, offering a number of clips featuring quips, one-liners, and put downs. Disc two then features a couple of 4-and-a-half minute pieces, one called Mon fils avait raison about how children are used in his films (they’re more there as objects but not really there in spirit) and then the other called Ne quittez pas, which goes over how Guitry integrated telephones (with a bit of a focus on the lengthy phone scene in Let’s Make a Dream…) I can’t say they are all that revelatory but as introductions to Guitry’s writing and style they make decent summaries for newcomers.

Also found here (and also from another release I’m sure) are two filmmaker interviews. Pascal Thomas first talks about his admiration for My Father Was Right on disc one for 7-minutes, followed by Francis Veber on Let’s Make a Dream… on disc two for 8-minutes. The two each talk about the back story behind the respective films and dig in to the aspects that had an impact on them. But I have to say I was a bit thrown at some comments, like Thomas stating while he thinks Guitry is a genius he certainly isn’t a master or Veber stating he finds most of Guitry’s work “boring” but loves Let’s Make a Dream…

Disc two also features a couple of additional features specific to Let’s Make a Dream…: over 5-minutes’ worth of sound tests—which come off more like rehearsals for a couple of sequences in the film—and a theatrical trailer.

The on-disc content isn’t plentiful admittedly but the content is good. But any short-comings in that department are made up for (and then some) with the rather incredible booklet that comes with the set. Though not one of the larger booklets I’ve ever come across (it’s only 56-pages) it’s just jam-packed full of content. There is a lengthy piece by Craig Keller on the first three films (which are more alike in terms of feel), accompanied by photos and dialogue samples from the films, followed by Sabrina D. Marques’ essay, which does cover Let’s Go Up the Champs-Élysées to an extent, though feels more like an overview going over common themes and devices. The booklet then closes with a reprint of an obituary written by Louis Marcorelles for Sight & Sound in 1957. But the best part of the booklet is a reprint of Gilbert Adair’s lengthy 1980 article for Sight & Sound on the filmmaker, which offers one of the best quick overviews I’ve come across yet for the director.

Interestingly supplements mentioned in the original announcement are not found here. These included two French television documentaries from Cinéastes de notre temps and Thèmes et variations du cinéma along with an interview with Guitry from the 1959 television series Magazine du théâtre. Why these aren’t here I can’t say.

At any rate what’s here does offer a great introduction to Guitry and those looking to get into his work for the first time could do a lot worse than start with what’s here.

6/10

CLOSING

I can’t say it’s a breathtaking release in any way but I’m impressed Arrow has still seen fit to go all out with these, bringing them out to Blu-ray and putting in the effort of gathering some excellent supplementary material including an excellent booklet. For those fond of Guitry’s work or looking to venture through this is a superb release to pick up.




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Purchase From:
amazon.com  amazon.ca