A part of this view­ing list: Criterion Collection Spine #57: Stanley Donen’s Charade.


What struck me most about Charade was the way in which it could show cal­lous and some­times vi­cious mur­ders in such a care­free way that you felt free to not care about the dead schmucks. That is a feel­ing that lasts through­out the film, but ap­pro­pri­ately so. The film is a rom-com thriller which is a del­i­cate trail to tread if a di­rec­tor in­tends each as­pect to tit­il­late in its own unique way. In this sort of pro­duc­tion it is es­sen­tial, even more so than in other films, that the en­tire cast and crew are on the same page in terms of its in­tent. Good ac­tors are es­sen­tial as well, and all of this is present in Charade, even apart from the pres­ence of Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. It was hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that Walter Matthau was al­ready mid­dle-aged when he made this film in 1963. James Coburn and George Kennedy too.


The sheer num­ber of twists, both small and large, keep the three card monte game go­ing for the en­tire film. The fact that there are ad­di­tional plot twists af­ter the cli­mac­tic one provide an ef­fec­tive leap into the ab­surd which helps bridge the strange gap be­tween rom-com and thriller. While Hepburn’s char­ac­ter is the fo­cus of the film, Grant’s act­ing is what car­ries it. His good na­ture ap­pears so gen­uine that even af­ter we dis­cover that he has lied again, much like Hepburn’s char­ac­ter, we for­give and for­get. That’s some charisma.


None of the char­ac­ters in the film are par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing as char­ac­ters. They ful­fill their speci­fic roles most ex­cel­lently, but there re­ally isn’t much to be an­a­lyzed that won’t ul­ti­mately take away from the film’s en­ter­tain­ment in­tent. Even 44 years af­ter re­lease it is a guf­faw-along slice of 60s Hollywood, and is likely a clas­sic for its re­liance on ever-ef­fec­tive sto­ry­telling.

From a tech­ni­cal stand­point the films suc­ceeds fairly well. Unfortunately there are a fair num­ber of rather ob­vi­ous con­ti­nu­ity er­rors, but the over­all color palette and the ex­cel­lent lo­ca­tion choices more than make up for this. Besides, only film geeks care about con­ti­nu­ity er­rors.


Criterion Essay by Bruce Eder.
• Watch the whole movie in se­rial for­mat.
• Film Summary by Stanley Donen.

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