Thursday, August 22, 2013

Day Two Hundred and Thirty-four - Charade, "For crying out loud... Audrey, you slay me with my own desire."

Where the rest of the world is enamored with Breakfast at Tiffany's, I think I prefer this Audrey most of all. She's sophisticated, witty... of course, very lovely... and has the best lines that run contrary to what you would expect in conversations concerning stolen gold, murder, and espionage.

And there's Cary Grant, too! Double trouble!

Set in Paris of the 60's, Audrey is the jilted widow of a man who seems to have been both a spy and a thief. Of course, she didn't know that when she married him, and was about to divorce the cad when she managed to escape the marriage the old fashioned way... he died.

Or rather, he was murdered, by persons unknown.

Having just returned from a ski holiday with a friend, she finds her husband has been killed, her apartment shuttered and divested of all property, and a fortune she never knew she had twisting in the wind somewhere. She's not the only one curious as to what's going on, though, as not only does the Paris police have questions, but also the CIA (Walter Matthau) and quite a few ruffians (in the form of James Coburn, George Kennedy, and Ned Glass).

If that's not enough, she's assisted and/or possibly hindered by a man of many names and trades, but who happens to be played by the always debonair Cary Grant. Within the confines of the film, the two of them alternately swoon and snap at each other for the duration as Grant's Peter (or Alexander or Adam or...) seems to be working for all parties, most especially himself.

I love this film for every scene but one.

From the moment we meet Audrey's Regina Lampert, we fall in love... which is standard procedure for anything she does... and watching her go from scared widow to giddy adventurer and back again is a delight. Of course she is a delight to watch, but she's not just an empty dress as her wit and good humor are almost always about her, even as her violent suitors begin to drop like so many flies.

And Grant? Well, Grant can carry just about any film as we've seen before. Sure, the one scene that I just cannot stand is his comical clothes-on shower scene as he tries to deflect Audrey's attempts at seduction... I mean, honestly, who wouldn't need a cold shower after any of her attentions? I could almost forgive him if it wasn't so ridiculous and terribly unfunny. He almost loses me again when he gives her a goofy face during the falling action (ugh!), but I survived... in part thanks to Audrey's reaction when she catches up in the conversation.

While the supporting cast isn't numerous, the names they got were great. Sure, James Coburn is a little hammy as Tex, but I really enjoyed Walter Matthau as Bartholomew, the CIA contact who keeps popping back up to warn Reggie. He does a great job of keeping her (and her romance with Peter... or Alexander... or Adam) off balance.

It's also fun to have George Kennedy in a much more malicious role than I'm used to seeing him in (like in is work in The Naked Gun series). While his fight with Grant on the Paris rooftops is silly, it's still a great scene between them.

The mystery itself needed a few more references so it didn't come as such a shock when the whereabouts of the fortune were revealed... especially since they emphasized the dental appointment a little too much, but it flows pretty naturally once it does start rolling. It just seems a bit too convenient a wrap up... especially considering other, better heist movies like To Catch A Thief.

Charade is also notable for its almost Hitchcockian shots, such as the shadowed dialogue scene just after Reggie returns from being interrogated the first time... and the morgue scene with the POV shot from the corpse's perspective.

When it comes down to it, though, Charade is a dazzingly film. Not quite up to the levels of perfection it probably could have been, but Audrey is in fine form and Grant only just below his normal levels of charm. I can't really blame him for that, though, as it seemed more an issue of writing than anything else. There are a few plot holes unfilled and character threads left dangling, but nothing too egregious.

Definitely worth the watch, I think... especially if you're a fan of classic suspense films.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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