The Story of a Cheat

1936 fictional biopic

Rating: 17/20

Plot: The titular cheat pens his memoirs from his tragedy-tinged childhood damned by mushrooms to the wild affairs and various criminal ventures.

Sacha Guitry wrote, directed, and starred in this classy little gem of a movie. I'm trying to think of a way to describe its style. Airy? Compared to most movies from the 1930s, this feels fresh and new, ironic since Guitry borrows heavily from the silent era. It's got virtually no dialogue and a voiceover narration (also Guitry) from top to bottom. But although it covers an entire guy's life, it's only eighty minutes long and paced in a way so that it seems like only half that. I'm not the biggest fan of narration in movies unless it's noir (almost necessary) or apparently a French film. Guitry's voiceover in this recalled Amelie for whatever reason. Maybe it's just the language though. At any rate, the tone is a playful one, and Guitry seems to have creative juices to spare, evident right off the bat with the cute title screen and introductions of the composer, the cinematographer, the actors, the set design folks, etc. I also liked his sense of humor. Writers didn't kill off entire families like Guitry did until the Coens came along. Breezy and (dare I say it?) whimsical and brisk, this is definitely worth a chunk of an afternoon.


cory said...

Just when I think I've got you figured out. I haven't been keeping up with my end of the "five"s, so I thought I'd check out one of your 17's that sounded interesting. I liked the opening credits, and the mushroom bit was black comedy at its best, but things went downhill from there. The narration destoyed any chance of liking this film. Even a lilting, playful French voice becomes like a drill in the brain after an hour or so of CONSTANT talking, especially when there is virtually no other voice. At about the hour point, I turned the volume off entirely to make the film tolerable. I also had an issue with the material. Besides questioning the odds of the older slut sitting next to him, I also didn't find the storyline compelling. It may have been risque' in the 30's, but now the whole thing seems very tame. A 12, for now. it may drop lower if I hear that guy's voice in my dreams tonight.

Shane said...

Haha! I don't think I've ever penalized a movie for finding its way into my dreams!

Sorry about this one...I really liked the guy's voice and thought the narration would have been grating had it not been so witty and playful. The mushroom scene was my favorite though.