Story of a Cheat (1936, Sacha Guitry)

A washed-up gambler (played by the writer/director) sits at a cafe recounting his life. We watch different episodes while he narrates. These episodes have no spoken dialogue except for this narration. So we are listening to Guitry talk for eighty straight minutes – no easy task.

Begins as a promising comedy. Our guy (“The Cheat”) steals from his mom, so isn’t allowed to eat the poison mushrooms that kill his entire family. Goes to live with an uncle, gets a job, this is when I start to realize that he’s never going to stop talking, and it gets less fun. It’s an okay movie, light, and funny at times, but seems nothing special.

Anyway, our cheat lives honestly and works hard after the mushroom incident, but seems to attract scoundrels. Eventually he embraces it and gets rich from cheating casinos – but one day his dealer is a guy who saved his life in WWI, and he takes it as a sign to stop cheating… but now he’s addicted to gambling, so he loses his fortune. Along the way he meets a woman who tries getting him to join her jewelry-robbing schemes, he marries a girl for tax purposes (it’s a business-only relationship, but years later he has sex with her in disguise, heh), he moves to Monte Carlo and becomes a croupier, and he tries to avoid an old woman (present-tense, in the cafe) who was his first fling back when he was an elevator operator.

I liked the opening credits best – filmed like one of those knowingly cheesy behind-the-scenes pieces from classic Hollywood, Guitry introduces all the major cast and crew on-camera. This is one of Guitry’s two most well-regarded films. I’m not gonna knock myself out to see the other (incidentally it’s Pearls of the Crown).