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5. The Pajama Game Though he technically codirected the film with George Abbott, who directed the original stage production, this musical has Donen's mitts all over it. It's a vibrant, subversive expression of a key issue in American politics by way of exuberant song and dance, indicative of Donen's use of film genre as a conduit for larger ideas.
4. Charade This comic thriller has been dismissively described as "the best Hitchcock movie that Hitchcock never made," and while the film has elements one might compare to something by Hitchcock, the screwball rhythms and self-aware interludes are pure Donen.
3. Singin' in the Rain One of the great pieces of film entertainment ever, and a self-reflexive ode to the cinematic arts. It's a movie about making movies, and the way Singin' in the Rain tends to bleed into the material it's presenting is a metatextual marvel. Plus, the songs are really, really good.
2. Funny Face (1957) This spiritual companion to Singin' in the Rain is a brash, antielitist defense of pop and commercial art that criticizes highbrow notions of beauty and value and the intellectual community's almost puritanical opposition to perceived vulgar and crude forms. As Jonathan Rosenbaum writes, the plot is kind of dumb, but its implications are fascinating.
1. Two for the Road Donen's best film, a meditative road movie that combines screwball characterizations with an Antonioni-esque treatment of marital angst and human relationships. The film is based around a series of time-shifting vignettes aided by Donen's masterful use of montage and his ability to sustain a consistent emotional and intellectual current amid varying time and space. It's an exceedingly stylish film, and perhaps a bit showy at times, but that's Donen for you—the unabashed aesthete unafraid of appearing gauche for the sake of self-expression.