Charade

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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