bruce springsteen is 70 years old today
geezer cinema: downton abbey (michael engler, 2019)

the story of a cheat (sacha guitry, 1936)

This is the third film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." Week 3 is called "Cahiers du Cinéma Week":

The first in a series celebrating challenges from past seasons, this challenge comes to us from Monsieur Flynn's original Letterboxd Season Challenge: 2015-16. The original description:

"The top 100 most essential films of 78 French film directors, critics and industry executives. The list was compiled for and published in the French Cahiers du cinéma film magazine. Not surprising that I do tend to agree with them at most of these, especially given my somewhat French taste in cinema."

This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen film from Cahiers du Cinema's 100 Films to an Ideal Library.

I believe the Cahiers du Cinéma top 100 was published in 2008. With The Story of a Cheat, I have now seen 80. (Highest-ranked film I haven't seen: The Mother and the Whore.)

This is the first Sacha Guitry film I have seen, which once again speaks to the usefulness of this challenge, which takes me places I haven't been. The Story of a Cheat is an innovative and enjoyable movie, if not unique then at least unusual. Though released in 1936, the film is in many ways a silent film with additions. Dialogue barely occurs ... everything we see is narrated by a man (The Cheat, played by Guitry) as he writes his memoirs. Real people act out the events in his story, interspersed occasionally with newsreel footage. It barely takes any time at all for this technique to seem perfect, with Guitry's Cheat in control of all the characters due to the presence of his voice overs. (The IMDB claims this was the first movie with voice over narration ... I'm not sure that's true.)

The Story of a Cheat is playful without being overbearing. I suppose there's a message, but honestly, I don't think it matters. It's better to simply enjoy the raconteur showing his lovable scoundrel nature. The Cheat, we learn, was one of an extended family of twelve ... when he stole a little money to buy marbles, he was forced to sit at the dinner table and watch everyone eat while his plate remained bare. The mushrooms everyone enjoyed turned out to be poisonous; everyone in the family died except The Cheat. When relatives stole his inheritance, he concluded that one would get on better in life if they were less than honest. The picaresque tale that follows demonstrates how, with scoundrels as well as the honest folks, life has its ups and downs.


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