The Story of a Cheat (France, 1936):
(Le Roman d'un Tricheur)

One of Sacha Guitry's most enjoyably ephemeral soufflés, with the auteur-playwright-raconteur-egomaniac puppeteering his persona from the spoken opening credits to the flossy final bow. Relaxing in a boulevard café, soigné rogue Guitry outlines his memoirs, anchoring his lifestyle in his ecstatic realization, as a youngster, that honesty doesn't pay -- in a blithely jaundiced throwaway, the same naughty act that sends him to bed without supper also saves him from the toxic mushrooms that claim his entire brood. From there, an affair with a Monte Carlo countess, falling in with Russian hoods, and getting tangled up with a pair of comely thieves before settling down on casino floors as professional tricheur. Guitry the filmmaker adorns Guitry the scene-hogger with feathery style, a steady flow of bite-sized verbal/visual mots -- basically the slipping-sliding technique of the Truffaut of Jules et Jim, the Scorsese of Goodfellas and the Anderson of The Royal Tenenbaums, and Guitry's jackrabbiting tempo can often make those guys seem a beat behind. It's enough to make me wish he had taken over Drôle de Drame from Marcel Carné's leaden reins. With Marguerite Moreno, Jacqueline Delubac, and Rosine Deréan. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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