|Walter Matthau as a dapper CIA agent in Hopsctoch (1980) d. Ronald Neame|
d. Ronald Neame
Criterion Collection #163
There are two main categories of films in the Criterion Collection. The first category is are the "fun" movies and the second category are the "serious" movies. The first category includes many of the "cult classics" and then some of the foreign films, the second category contains most of the documentaries and many more of the foreign films. Hopscotch, a clever, witty spy thriller with overtones of the Edward Snowden affair, is firmly in the former category- as fun as the Criterion Collection can get.
Hopsctoch is yet another fine example of why watching the Criterion Collection is such a useful investment of time. A film I probably never would have even heard of, let alone watched, becomes a diverting way to pass a couple hours in the early evening, and provides plenty of food for thought about the way the world has changed in the generation since Hopscotch was released.
Walter Matthau, here at this best, plays Kendig, a top CIA operative who is put out to pasture by his Nixonian boss Myerson (Ned Beatty.) He decides to retaliate by writing a tell-all memoir, and then eludes capture in spectacular fashion. He is assisted in his escapade by the wealthy and beautiful divorce Isobel, played by Glenda Jackson and of course a young Sam Waterson would have to part of such a film.
Neame also directed the Criterion Collection title The Horses Mouth(1958), and both titles share winning actors in the title role. Matthau, so often cast as a nebbish, is a dapper sophisticated super spy in Hopsctoch and you can see that he enjoys every minute of the performance. Hopsctoch is, above all, fun to watch and there is no point during the run time where I was bored or scratching at the walls to get out. That is how I know that I'm watching a "fun" Criterion Collection title vs. a "serious" Criterion Collection title: During the serious films I'm often in sheer agony and need to take breaks or watch the film in half hour to hour blocks