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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

La Poison aka Poison [Blu-ray]

 

(Sacha Guitry, 1951)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Gaumont

Video: Eureka - Masters of Cinema - Spine #23 / Criterion Collection - Spine # 891

 

Disc:

Region: 'B'-locked / Region 'A' (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:25:21.041 / 1:25:46.975

Disc Size: 32,708,281,451 bytes / 48,466,608,840 bytes

Feature Size: 24,633,501,696 bytes / 25,245,941,760 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps / 35.12 Mps

Chapters: 8 / 10

Case: Standard Blu-ray case /

Release date: February 25th, 2013 / August 22nd, 2017

 

Video (both):

Aspect ratio: 1.37:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio French 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit

 

LPCM Audio French 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit

 

Subtitles (both):

English, none

 

Extras:

On Life On-Screen: Miseries and Splendour of a Monarch, a 61-minute documentary about Guitry and the making of the film (1:00:59 - 2010)
• Substantial booklet containing writing on the film, vintage excerpts, and rare archival imagery

 

New interview with filmmaker Olivier Assayas on director Sacha Guitry’s influence on French cinema (16:13)
On Life On-screen: Miseries and Splendour of a Monarch, a 60-minute documentary from 2010 on the collaboration of Guitry and Michel Simon (1:01:02)

Cineaste De Notre Temps (1:06:53)
PLUS: An essay by film scholar Ginette Vincendeau and a 1957 obituary for Guitry by François Truffaut

 

Bitrate:

1) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

Description: 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.

 

 

The Film:

...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?

Excerpt from Film-Intellocated HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

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 strongly 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 an excellent video presentation.

 

A NOTE ON THE TITLE (from the liner notes): Although the French “poison” translates directly to the English “poison”, it generally takes the masculine article – “le poison”. The title of Guitry’s film, a commonplace for a bitchy old woman, invokes the nickname given to Blandine Braconnier; the presence of the feminine article is a rural quirk indicating a female nickname, and has no relation to the actual article of the referent noun.

 

The Criterion looks a shade superior. It is slightly darker and I don't discount potential marginal tweaking of the black levels giving it a tighter look. The Criterion also seems to show more grain. You can see the visual superiority - even in the 800 width caps below. The Criterion image is richer and looked improved on my system.    

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

1) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

1) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

1) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

1) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Audio comes in the form of a linear PCM mono track at 1536 kbps.  It alls sounds flawless, authentically flat, but runs sweetly and supportively beside the La Poison. There are optional English subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.

 

Criterion nudge ahead again - also using a linear PCM (mono) but at 24-bit. The original French dialogue is clean and clear. Louiguy (Louis Guiglielmi) - a Spanish composer who worked to films right up to the 70s - adds a score that benefits nicely by the uncompressed rendering. There are optional English subtitles on Criterion's Region 'A'-locked Blu-ray disc.

 

 

Extras :

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.

 

Criterion include a new, 16-minute, interview (conducted in October 2016) with filmmaker Olivier Assayas on director Sacha Guitry’s influence on French cinema. He states that he doesn't consider himself a cinephile who re-watches films over and over again... except for Guitry. He talks of the director's pioneering and influential style effecting French cinema. We also get On Life On-screen: Miseries and Splendour of a Monarch, a 60-minute documentary from 2010, also found on the MoC, on the work of Guitry and Michel Simon examining their collaboration and the making of La Poison. There is also an hour long episode of Cineastes De Notre Temps showing a portrait of director Sacha Guitry through interviews with those who worked with him, both onstage and on-screen. It was directed by Claude de Givray, it originally aired on May 20th, 1965 and is shown in French with optional English subtitles. The package has a liner notes booklet with an essay by film scholar Ginette Vincendeau and a 1957 obituary for Guitry by François Truffaut.

 

Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 

 

Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
I recently revisited Sacha Guitry via Criterion's wonderful Eclipse Boxset. Like fine wine it improves with age. La Poison is just brilliant and Michael 'one take' Simon is delightfully fun. This was a fantastic choice for MoC to release on Blu-ray. It is both an amazing film and transfer. The supplemental documentary and liner notes booklet add to the value and this has one of our highest recommendations!

 

Criterion advance in every area on the Masters of Cinema disc from 4 years hence. It has superior a/v and supplements and is the definitive for this wonderful Sacha Guitry film. Strongly recommended!

Gary Tooze

February 18th, 2013

July 26th, 2017

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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