If you like witty off-beat character-driven films, you will love La Poison. It is also one of those uncommon movies that can be enjoyed as light entertainment and yet rewards deeper thinking about the many issues it presents. The movie especially invites me to question: has mass media destroyed communitarianism? has law and justice destroyed ethics and morality?
The included documentary explains that the movie was filmed essentially like a live play, which explains some of its impressive power and immediacy, and is a tribute to the masterful planning of Sacha Guitry, the director, and Michel Simon, the amazing lead actor.
You can't go wrong with Eureka's Masters of Cinema collection. The transfers are the best, the discs load instantly (unlike Criterion, for instance), the menus are beautifully simple and direct, and the extras included are always essential.
I saw La Poison for the first time in Stockholm in the fifties and since then I've always been on the lookout for an opportunity to once again experience the enjoyment I felt on that occasion. When I discovered Amazon quite a few years ago I immediately tried to find La Poison in their immense selection of DVDs, but to no avail. I have tried again and again at regular intervals and - I hardly believed my eyes - there it was, in February this year. It was a very happy reunion! The film is still very witty but also thought-provoking in different ways. The humour may be acid but it is superb entertainment. Michel Simon and Germaine Reuver in the main parts as exasperated husband and cantankerous wife are priceless - they couldn't be bettered and the subordinate parts are excellently cast as well.
One of the great late period films by Sacha Guitry -- the total auteur who delighted (and scandalised) the French public and inspired the French New Wave as a model for authorship as director-writer-star of screen and stage alike. In every one of his pictures (and almost every one served as a rueful examination of the war between the sexes), Guitry sculpted by way of a rapier wit -- one might say by way of "the Guitry touch" -- some of the most sophisticated black comedies ever conceived... and La Poison [Poison] is one of his blackest.
Michel Simon plays Paul Braconnier, a man with designs on murdering his wife Blandine (Germaine Reuver) -- a woman with similar designs on her husband. When Braconnier visits Paris to consult with a lawyer about the perfect way of killing a spouse -- that is, the way in which he can get away with it -- an acid comedy unfolds that reaches its peak in a courtroom scene for the ages.
From the moment of Guitry's trademark introduction of his principals in the opening credits, and on through the brilliant performance by national treasure Michel Simon (of Renoir's Boudu sauvé des eaux and Vigo's L'Atalante, to mention only two high-water marks), here is fitting indication of why Guitry is considered by many the Gallic equal of Ernst Lubitsch. The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to introduce Sacha Guitry into the catalogue with La Poison for the first time on video in the UK in a dazzling new Gaumont restoration.
...La Poison, with three-hundred and fourteen, is a popular Guitry work. Part knockabout blackly comic farce, part social commentary, part Plato-esque destruction of logic, La Poison, shot in eleven days, is a real find from the archives for Masters Of Cinema. At eighty-five minutes, this is an easy-going introduction to the comic French cinema of the 1940s and 1950s but it is also a film with real worth and voice, looking predictably sumptuous on the restored blu-ray edition.
As Paul Braconnier (Michel Simon) wishes ruefully to be rid of his alcoholic frog-like wife (Germaine Reuver), a rural French village titters with rumours and gossip but suffers from a lack of visitors. Meanwhile, in Paris, superlative defence lawyer Maître Aubanel (Jean Debucourt) has just succeeded in securing his one-hundredth acquittal. Might there be a way that all parties could come together to secure the greater good of the town?
Guitry's La Poison looks very impressive on Blu-ray from The Masters of Cinema in the UK. The image quality shows a high level of detail with exceptional layered contrast. I noted a bit of flared brightness but it is essentially inconsequential in-motion. The 1080P visuals have frequent depth with amazing sharpness. There are some hints of texture but the highlight is the crispness. This Blu-ray gets high marks for a brilliant video presentation.
The only digital extra is a doozy - and hour long documentary on Guitry and the film entitled On Life On-Screen: Miseries and Splendour of a Monarch. It was made in 2010 and is filled with interesting information - Guitry fans will not want to miss. Masters of Cinema also include another substantial liner notes booklet containing writing on the film, vintage excerpts, and rare archival photos. Review Courtesy of DVD Beaver