La Poison

La Poison

(Sacha Guitry, 1951)

Rating: 4/5

Reviewed by Dave Lancaster

: Fresh and modern, Sacha Guitry's small town black comedy 'La Poison' sparkles on Blu-ray defying its 60+ year age.

'La Poison' opens almost like a spoof as filmmaker Sacha Guitry approaches just about everyone involved in his film and thanks them for their participation from the lead actor (the wonderful Michel Simon) to the film editor for their talents. He even phones up some voice actors and tells them that, as good as they were, they won't be credit but thanks all the same.

After such a post-modern opening, 'La Poison' looks to go back in time for a small town tale of black comedy and deception but really this is a disguise that allows Guitry to get away with murder. This is a filmmaker who had the audacity to declare in the face of marriage, the church and the law that crime, temptation and deceit can pay.

Michel Simon (who was so great in 1932's similarly toned 'Boudu Saved from Drowning') plays an unhappily married man who plots to off his boozy wife, who also has her own eyes on murder as well. Set in the confines of a claustrophobic town where everyone knows everyone else, 'La Poison' sizzles under this prospect before Simon's character visits Paris and enlists the help of a crafty lawyer famed for getting guilty parties off the hook before the film culminates in a delicious courtroom farce.  

Adding to the speed of the narrative's revelations, Guitry also filmed rapidly, rarely shooting alternate takes. Instead, it was done almost like a stage play as the director covered the action with multiple cameras and just let them roll, affording the film a genuine spark which ensures that the pace never drops (the finished product runs at less than an hour and a half anyway).

'La Poison' is a seemingly lightweight comedy anchored by a filmmaker's vision that was ahead of its time. Eureka's Blu-ray shows off a lovely crisp print and throws in an hour-long doc into the mix.

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