by Ryland Walker Knight
[Charade plays Wednesday, August 5th, at Seattle's Metro Theatre to kick off this summer season of Liars, Thieves and Cheats, which you can read more about both here at home and over at the Metro Classics Blog proper.]
Confection at every angle, Charade is a blast. It hops around Paris, and different sets of violence, playing with all our ideas about movie stars and how we identify them (and identify with them) without getting boring or even haughty, though Hepburn sure does try. It's not much in cinematic terms, just pragmatic mostly, but this is a film about charisma; thus, its stars shine and all move well. Every mark is hit, every note struck, every twist signaled, every swoon chimed.
The best joke in the picture may be, simply, a mustache, but there's plenty of fun in how much fun Audrey Hepburn has with herself—she's forever complaining of hunger, ordering food and not eating, or then diving in all elbows to cope. But she stays thin. She's a movie star. Just like Cary Grant stays charming, always, even when we think he may be wrong. Grant, in 1963, proves just as nimble and canny as ever, eager to play any game he's put into by Hepburn or the other goons hanging around town, each with little sense of humor and less imagination. He wins through ingenuity, no doubt, and a fear of the serious. Though he doesn't throw matches at women, he's cruel, shrewd; but he gets results and he gets girls batty. There's a lesson there, I'm sure. Something about enjoying pursuit and holding all the cards—or the thrill of juggling. Grant, before all, was a vaudeville tumbler.
Another possibility: Fall seven times, get up eight? Whatever the case, Charade also pokes fun at names and knowing, at what a name might mean, and how little we know the ones we think we love. There's no reason to it, of course, you just choose. Finding the best option (what's a solution?) may be altogether easy: just look around you. The devil, they say, is in the details. Sometimes truth, too. If you get lucky, you pull the right switch and everything falls into place.
—Somebody has to have seen it!