Movie Diary 1/3/2009

charade3Charade (Stanley Donen, 1963). A party movie in which everybody seems to be having as much fun as you hope they had offscreen. Cary Grant is unimpeachable as always, and Audrey Hepburn looks unusually animated — how could you not be amused, surrounded by Grant, Matthau, Coburn, et al.?

Breaking Away (Peter Yates, 1979). Along with its general niceness, a couple of things stand out: Paul Dooley’s father — one of the classic dads of the era — and Yates’s decision to play the final couple of laps of the climactic race in a single unbroken shot from a long distance. Nobody’d let you get away with that today.

A Kiss Before Dying (Gerd Oswald, 1956). There are actors who can play blank, sociopathic characters and still bring something to the table. Robert Wagner isn’t one of them, and this Ira Levin thriller goes flat around him. Some pretty good CinemaScope exteriors in the Southwest, and a pre-almost-everything Joanne Woodward as the object of Wagner’s frustrations. It’s better than the 1991 remake, with Matt Dillon.