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Grand Illusions: French Cinema Classics, 1928–1960

Saturday, November 10, 2012
8:45 p.m. The Story of a Cheat
Sacha Guitry (France, 1936)

Imported 35mm Print!

Le roman d’un tricheur). Sacha Guitry’s masterpiece is aptly titled, for he uses every trick not in the book to tell a most convoluted story simply, elegantly, hilariously. No dialogue, per se, just his voice-over rendition that makes us wonder why we ever settled for dialogue in other films. Marvelous camera, moving, leaping, crouching, lurking, gliding where his storytelling directs it. Artful wipes making characters and time disappear . . . The protagonist, as a boy, was sent to his room for stealing, missing the dinner of mushrooms that wiped out his whole family and digesting the lesson that crime indeed pays. His adult career as adventurer and cardsharp takes us from Montmartre to Monaco with Guitry a Peter Sellers–like master of appearances and disguises, accumulating a false wife and a real lover and then, by twist of narrative, “that night, I became my wife’s lover.” It’s not the story, however, but the telling.

Please note that parking near the PFA Theater will be in short supply due to a Saturday evening football game at Cal's Memorial Stadium.

—Judy Bloch

• Written by Guitry. Photographed by Marcel Lucien. With Guitry, Serge Grave, Marguerite Moreno, Jacqueline Delubac. (83 mins, In French with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm, From Institut Français, permission Janus Films/Criterion Collection)