As director Jonathan Demme admits in his commentary track, the included making-of featurette, and the DVD's liner notes, the 1963 romantic-thriller "Charade" has been a favourite of his for decades, going back to Demme's discovery of movies in the 1960s, and with director Stanley Donen's blessing, Demme set out to update "Charade" as a "New Wave" thriller with offbeat touches, mixed media, and nods to his filmic influences.
Credited to four scribes (with "Charade" screenwriter Peter Stone allegedly been given a token credit as "Peter Joshua," the film's romantic lead character), Demme details in his fairly consistent commentary the film's photography in Paris (using 35mm film and digital 24 frame video for night scenes and flashback episodes), and working with a hand-picked cast and international crew. The real gems are a few anecdotes, such as posing as a United Artists publicist in the 1960s, and gaining access to Francois Truffaut while the legendary French director was filming "The Bride Wore Black" (which gets an overt nod at one point). Demme also points out many cameos by actors from his favourite films (including director Agnes Varda), numerous in-jokes, the "Aznavour Spell," and key dialogue lifted from "Charade."
"The Truth About Charlie" digs a bit deeper into character back stories (including poor dead Charlie) than “Charade,” and Demme deliberately tries to enhance the suspenseful twists established in the original film, often through visual and editorial techniques borrowed from the French New Wave films of his youth. That said, “Charlie” is like a soup where all kinds of vegetables were tossed in, except all at once, not gradually - so there's no balance of flavours; some ideas are overcooked, raw, or just dissolve into a pureed, brackish mush.
The "Making Of" featurette is a standard assembly of actors describing their characters, with snippets of Demme and Thandie Newton driving through Paris, discussing the film's assets over the original film. Most of the main cast get a few sound-bites, including production designer Hugo Luczyc-Wyhowski.
The featurette also includes clips from some deleted scenes that are showcased in a separate gallery, all presented widescreen, non-anamorphic, with time code. "Dominique's Office" has Newton and Commandant Dominique going through Charlie's date book, and is followed by Newton visiting some of her late hubby's final meeting spots, while several ex-soldiers survey her movements; "Reggie Follows Joshua" has Newton shading Wahlberg in a digital video night sequence; "Wine Club" has Wahlberg toasting with his enemies; "Zad's Bluegrass" shows Ted Levine playing guitar in a wartime Bosnia flashback; "Sang Opens The Present" takes place in a café, where Wahlberg and Newton watch as one of the ex-soldiers tears into a package; "Reggie Gets A Note" is, uhm, just that; "Lola Death Flashback" includes that character's final, hallucinatory images as a child; and "Charlie's Funeral" is an unused final scene that overtly pays tribute to Truffaut's "The Man Who Loved Women," assembling Charlie's many loves as his body disappears six feet under.
Production Notes are weighted more towards Demme's filmic updates and movie idols, and Cast and Filmmaker Bios cover stars Wahlberg, Newton and Robbins, plus director Demme and his three co-screenwriters.
Like Universal's 2-disc set for "Meet Joe Black," the original film is included in this release (this time on the reverse side of the disc, and actually mentioned on the sleeve packaging, so folks know they're getting a second movie), and is presented in anamorphic widescreen with a straightforward mono mix, and subtitles in English, French, and Spanish. (The Criterion release features an amusing commentary track by director Stanley Donen, and screenwriter Peter Stone, who during the 60s, wrote several fluffy thrillers, including "Arabesque" (as Pierre Marton), "Mirage," and "Jigsaw.")
© 2003 Mark R. Hasan