Based on Guitry’s own stage play about a sanctimonious fellow who eventually’s victimized by his own hypocrisy. Little effort’s made to “cinematize” the property, which’s filmed just as it was staged.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman
The New Testament’s title may sound Biblical, but if it is, it’s not in the way that might be assumed, and indeed might at least have certain Old Testament elements, as in that somewhat famous proscription about coveting your neighbor’s wife (or, in this case, spouse). There is another element at play in this parlor comedy, one that commentator Ginette Vincendeau refers to as “another performance” (in this case, filmed) of one of Guitry’s plays, and that is Paul’s equally famous proscription in 1 Timothy that the love of money is the root of all evil.
Guitry portrays a doctor named Jean Marcelin, a well to do “great man” (as VIncendeau refers to this type which Guitry often played) who nonetheless is being cuckolded by his wife, Lucie (Betty Daussmond). When Marcelin’s secretary takes off for another job, he hired pretty young medical student Juliette Lecourtois (Jacqueline Delubac), whose employment generates considerable umbrage in Lucie despite her own infidelity. All of this intrigue plays out against a subplot whereby Marcelin’s will is being revised (get it? — the new testament).
In some ways, The New Testament does in fact play at least a bit like some of Coward’s own parlor comedies, though there’s a somewhat less high falutin’ quality, as in the completely silly interchange between Marcelin and his wife where they devolve into nonsensical whispering as they discuss the potential hiring of Juliette, or in the gag involving various names the Marcelins give their harried butler. There are also at least hints of misogyny permeating this piece (Vincendeau is on record as stating this is a recurring motif in many of Guitry’s works, and they’re an undeniable element in passing moments of My Father Was Right and Let’s Make a Dream. . .) that would probably never be at home in a Coward piece, something that plays out in discussions Marcelin has where he teases a former mistress of his as to whether Juliette is his new mistress or his daughter. If that’s not enough to raise your eyebrows, The New Testament may provide passable amusement, if not any outsized guffaws.
4.37GB | 1h 39m | 960×720 | mkv