#98 The Story of a Cheat (1936)

Ever had a weakness that you were trying to be free of but you realize it’s easier said than done? That’s what the character of The Cheat (yes, that’s what he’s called) goes through in this unconventionally funny French film. The Story of a Cheat is when an old man writes his memoir about his early days as a thief and how his impulsive instinct to steal defines moments in his life.

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When you watch this film, it seems as if it’s questioning everything that would appear common sense to us such as stealing being wrong and how gambling is a horrible habit when done too often. Well, apparently not to The Cheat. Being a master thief from a young age actually saved his life from eating poisonous mushrooms and being able to get a handful of cash when gambling. Even when he tries to be an honest man like he knows he should, it doesn’t work out that way. He gets himself in awkward situations like trying to hide from those he cheated from and his many methods to getting away with thievery. This film reminded me a lot of ones like 21, Catch Me If You Can, and Focus that show the art of gambling and conning your way to what you want. The brilliance of this film though is in the innocence of it how The Cheat may be a criminal but he’s not evil. He’s just making use of a skill he never asked for and can’t control.

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The Story of a Cheat is known for being the first film to use voiceover narration. What makes this film different from the rest of films with voiceover narrations is that it takes over the ENTIRE film. It’s not like one or two sentences and then the scene goes on like in your average narrative. It’s like The Cheat really is telling the viewing audience a story exactly the way he’s writing it in the beginning of the film and we hear the whole thing including the character descriptions, actions, and dialogue all from the voice of The Cheat. The only time we hear dialogue straight from the characters is in the scenes taking place in the present. Well, I’ll definitely say that this technique makes it much more fun reading the subtitles out loud! I absolutely loved the hilarious conclusion of the film as well. I guarantee you it will be a moment you face-palm yourself with a big smile. This is a recommended see.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find this film online but there’s a copy of the film on Hulu. Here’s a clip from the film. Hopefully you can understand French. Basically in the clip, The Cheat is explaining the real tragedy in having so much money is when you never spend it but still keep making more. Agree or disagree? Please comment what you think:

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