Another advantage to Arrow releasing these films as opposed to Criterion just throwing them into an Eclipse set is that Arrow actually puts together a decent set of features, with the set ultimately working as an introduction for those just coming to Guitry’s work.
Arrow has first employed Ginette Vincendeau for a few features found in the set, starting with a 12-minute introduction found on the first disc. Here she talks about his career as a playwright and his eventual move to film, despite not thinking highly of the medium. Though she talks glowingly of his humour and his performances she admits to being conflicted because if his attitude towards women, which she calls misogynistic.
This then carries on to the four select-scene audio commentaries she provides for each film, presented as separate features and only running 4 to 9-minutes each, with two available on the first disc and two on the second. During these she talks briefly about each film, giving some backstory if they are based on a play before focusing on specific elements to each film, or a specific clip. She expands a bit on Guitry’s views on women while covering My Father Was Right and Let’s Make a Dream…, and then goes over the different “types” of films Guitry made, using the first three as examples of what were more like “filmed plays” then Let’s Go Up the Champs-Élysées as an example of the “comic history.” She does spend 9-minutes on Lets Make a Dream…, with focus on the lengthy telephone sequence, which she calls one of her favourite sequences in his films. Though they’re short they specifically point out the pleasures she takes from the films, as well as the things she just finds distasteful.
Arrow then seems to be reusing features produced for another release (I’m going to take the wild guess it was a French release), four essays by scholar Philipe Durant. Disc one presents Creatures féreces (around 6-minutes) looks at the women in Guitry’s films while L’email des mots (around 7-minutes) looks at Guitry’s dialogue, offering a number of clips featuring quips, one-liners, and put downs. Disc two then features a couple of 4-and-a-half minute pieces, one called Mon fils avait raison about how children are used in his films (they’re more there as objects but not really there in spirit) and then the other called Ne quittez pas, which goes over how Guitry integrated telephones (with a bit of a focus on the lengthy phone scene in Let’s Make a Dream…) I can’t say they are all that revelatory but as introductions to Guitry’s writing and style they make decent summaries for newcomers.
Also found here (and also from another release I’m sure) are two filmmaker interviews. Pascal Thomas first talks about his admiration for My Father Was Right on disc one for 7-minutes, followed by Francis Veber on Let’s Make a Dream… on disc two for 8-minutes. The two each talk about the back story behind the respective films and dig in to the aspects that had an impact on them. But I have to say I was a bit thrown at some comments, like Thomas stating while he thinks Guitry is a genius he certainly isn’t a master or Veber stating he finds most of Guitry’s work “boring” but loves Let’s Make a Dream…
Disc two also features a couple of additional features specific to Let’s Make a Dream…: over 5-minutes’ worth of sound tests—which come off more like rehearsals for a couple of sequences in the film—and a theatrical trailer.
The on-disc content isn’t plentiful admittedly but the content is good. But any short-comings in that department are made up for (and then some) with the rather incredible booklet that comes with the set. Though not one of the larger booklets I’ve ever come across (it’s only 56-pages) it’s just jam-packed full of content. There is a lengthy piece by Craig Keller on the first three films (which are more alike in terms of feel), accompanied by photos and dialogue samples from the films, followed by Sabrina D. Marques’ essay, which does cover Let’s Go Up the Champs-Élysées to an extent, though feels more like an overview going over common themes and devices. The booklet then closes with a reprint of an obituary written by Louis Marcorelles for Sight & Sound in 1957. But the best part of the booklet is a reprint of Gilbert Adair’s lengthy 1980 article for Sight & Sound on the filmmaker, which offers one of the best quick overviews I’ve come across yet for the director.
Interestingly supplements mentioned in the original announcement are not found here. These included two French television documentaries from Cinéastes de notre temps and Thèmes et variations du cinéma along with an interview with Guitry from the 1959 television series Magazine du théâtre. Why these aren’t here I can’t say.
At any rate what’s here does offer a great introduction to Guitry and those looking to get into his work for the first time could do a lot worse than start with what’s here. 6/10