Saturday, 20 April 2013

Goodbye

Well, that's it for Chaplin! I quickly found the average of all my rating of his films and he amount to: 73%. Be sure to check out some of his film, because he's a great director!

City Lights (1931)


Charlie Chaplin Takes The Saying “Love Is Blind” Literally.


City Lights was the first Chaplin film I ever saw, and I owe all of my respect towards Chaplin to this very film. When I first watched it, I expected it to be filled with idiots falling over, however, there’s a fair bit more of kindness the fills up this film. Although City Lights doesn’t quite live up to the first viewing upon re-watch, it is still a very nice film that I will always treasure.


City Lights is simple in it’s plot. The film revolves around the beloved tramp, who one day falls in love with an innocent, blind flower girl. Upon realizing that she will soon be evicted should she be unable to raise twenty-two dollars in one day, the Tramp jumps to his feet in order to save the blind girl from her eviction.

People watch City Lights to get a good laugh. I must confess that upon re-watching City Lights, I didn’t get much chuckles. Sure, there’s a small chuckle in the boxing scene, there’s a small laugh and the image of the bubbles flying out of the man who eats the “soap sandwich”’s mouth. But overall, I really cannot see when not only I saw in the film but what millions of other people also saw in it. It does not have the laughs of Modern Times or the insightful commentary of The Great Dictator, ... so what does it have? After watching it - I realized City Lights is Chaplin’s most tender and sweet film he ever filmed. When I watched it, I was not smiling so much because of the jokes but because of the very kind aura the film managed to emit. It has something to do with how Chaplin manages the relationship between himself and the blind girl that makes City Lights deservable of it’s classic status.

What makes the relationship between the Tramp and the blind flower girl so fascinating, is the fact that she cannot look upon him to make any irrational judgements. He is a social pariah because of his lack of money. This is really a fantasy of Charlie Chaplin - a chance for him to find love with a woman who can’t judge him by his physical appearance. The Tramp dreams of a time when he can find love with someone who cannot judge him. In the beginning of the film - it seems as though The Tramp loves the idea of her. He loves the idea of someone who is blind and cannot see the real him. He becomes obsessed with such a concept (we see the peak of that when he grabs his friend’s wad of cash and runs), and he goes overboard. In the end of the film, SPOILER ALERT AHEAD, we realize just how sincere the Tramp really is about this romance. He no longer worships the idea of having a blind woman as a lover, because he pays for her eye treatment. That is a particularly strong moment in the film because it is that very moment that we see the Tramp is indeed in love. It is no longer a mere illusion - it is the real thing. Chaplin is very blunt with his message, “love is blind” is what he’s trying to tell us. However, in a message film - I think bluntness is what makes them work.

City Lights doesn’t have as much to it as some of Chaplin’s other great masterpieces - and for that, it fails to live up to some of Chaplin’s other great films. There is no complexity to this film whatsoever, although it does benefit from simplicity, there is no way to get any additional meaning from such a film. This was at a point in his career when Chaplin was on the verge of discovering the brilliance of what he could do with his camera. And so there is slightly more than a few laughs in City Lights, (unlike Chaplin’s older film, The Circus), but altogether, it equals less than I was hoping it would equal to.

Well, there you are. I have now reviewed every Chaplin film. So, where does the idea of City Lights stand among the other films of Chaplin? It combines the sense of humour we have seen in many of his other films. It combines the sweetness we see in many of his other films. It has a similar kind of love interest character we have seen in many of Chaplin’s other films. It even manages to squeeze in a parody of both the upper class and the new found love for talkies. That said, City Lights is filled with everything people love in Chaplin’s films. But that does not make it his best. Casino was filed with everything people loved in Martin Scorsese's film, but that did not make it his best. City Lights is Chaplin’s best film to watch first- but it’s not his best film overall.


City Lights,
1931,
Directed by Charlie Chaplin,
Starring: Charlie Chaplin, Harry Myers and Virginia Cherril

★★★½ /★★★★★

Ranked:
3. City Lights
8. The Kid
10. A King in New York



Thursday, 18 April 2013

A King in New York (1957)


Charlie Chaplin Shouts Out “I’m Still Here! Don’t Forget Me!”... But Nobody Is Listening Closely Enough To Hear It



A King in New York is the last feature film Charlie Chaplin ever directed that I will get the pleasure of watching for the first time. That said, it is rather unfortunate that A King in New York should be the last film I get to witness the genius of Chaplin with for the first time. People claim that A King in New York is a film about communism, I personally, saw it only as a comedy. Yes, one of the characters is a child who yells out blatant thought on communism and how screwed up America is... but there’s not enough there to make this a film about communism. And as a comedy - it is most mediocre.


Every cast member of this film delivers generally - awful performance. That includes the great Charlie Chaplin who fails to use any degree of his great sense of physical comedy to assist this film. He simply states his lines in a simple voice - unlike when he was The Tramp, and he would do so much more with his physical expressions that would far surpass anything he demonstrated as acting in A King in New York. Michael Chaplin, yet another child of Charlie Chaplin, starred in this film in a performance that made me cringe at times - and want to commit Harakiri to take me out of my misery at other times. His acting is some of the most unrealistic acting I have ever seen in my entire life. There is a scene that feels as though it lasted five minutes (I am unaware of it’s real length), where he stands on a chair and yells in a loud and emotionless word about his frustration with the political status of America. I couldn’t possibly care less.

Talk about failure as a comedy! A King in New York is the direct opposite of being funny. I cannot begin to state how stupid and clever this film is. Comedy is a foreign concept it seems to Chaplin when he made this film. It’s boring and all of his attempts at comedy are a direct failure. Unlike several good comedies, there are direct moments we’re supposed to laugh at. But in A King in New York, it seems as though we’re supposed at the whole situation. But the problem is... the whole situation isn’t funny! It’s boring! I outright hate this film for putting me through such tediousness - and making me expect it would be at least decent.

Talkies were without a doubt what killed Chaplin. The Great Dictator and Monsieur Verdoux were both superb films. However, The Great Dictator worked because Chaplin incorporated a great deal of physical comedy to make it’s utter greatness. Monsieur Verdoux worked as it was so compelling. A King in New York is stupid and it’s a waste of Chaplin. His cleverness does not adapt from silent to sound too well when it comes down to what we see with A King in New York.

That’s seriously everything I can say about this film. There’s a complete absence of quality-- and few redeeming qualities. Chaplin has proceeded to make me want to impale myself with a five foot spear. Thank you, Chaplin.

I should add, it’s pretty sad to see that I have run out of Chaplin films to watch. He’s a great man with a great career. But I will never forget he directed A King in New York.


A King in New York,
1957,
Directed by Charlie Chaplin,
Starring: Charlie Chaplin, Michael Chaplin and Jerry Demonde
★★ /★★★★★


Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Limelight (1952)


Charlie Chaplin Gives A Shot At Making A Self Reflective Film On His Gradual Fade From Complete Success


I figured that Limelight would be at least partially a comedy - I was very wrong. In fact, I couldn’t have been even slightly more incorrect by making such an assumption. Limelight suffers from being one of the most melodramatic films I have ever seen in my entire life. I’m sure that’s partially due to the writing (Chaplin did the screenplay and the original story) and partially due to Claire Bloom’s acting. Although her performance isn’t bad - it was slightly too overdramatic to suck us in. I should factor in the fact that it was also the direction that was in fault - Chaplin should have noticed how over-the-top and unrealistic the acting was. Perhaps that was how Chaplin wanted it.

There are two key performances in Limelight. The first, is that of Charlie Chaplin. This is without a doubt his most personal film. The anger and frustration that Calvero (Chaplin’s character) faces, is the same anger and frustration the Chaplin was frustrating. Because of this - he felt very real and sympathetic. His character’s sadness and complete difference from The Tramp is what gives Limelight any semblance of gusto. It really is a beautifully melancholy film. The second preformance worth mentioning is that of Claire Bloom. This was really her breakout role and she would go on to deliver some great acting. As time passes, the idea of great acting changes. Some actors are very fortunate and their acting seems to still carry the weight (Marlon Brando, Paul Newman and James Dean for example). However, there are also some actors and actresses whose performances gradually transform from utter genius to ridiculous nonsense. I have no choice but to point my finger out at Claire Bloom in Limelight as being one of those many people. It could be something in her line delivery, because a great actress could probably manage to make “I... love you!” sound at least somewhat realistic instead of the awkward mess disguised as acting.

Chaplin was never too concerned with cinematography - or so it seemed. However, Limelight seemed to change all that. I’ll be sure to post a picture to demonstrate this, but he uses shadows and darkly lit lighting as a complete advantage that gives a feeling of something that Ingmar Bergman would shoot in his black and white films. This overall assists the film in sucking us into this dark and moody world the Chaplin is pleading for us to accept. But seriously... SOME OF THESE SHOTS! They are beyond belief! Being a filmmaker from the silent period - Chaplin carries on the value of that as Jean-Luc Godard put it, “the cinema is truth 24 times a second, and every cut is a lie.” In some of Chaplin’s other films - the act of over-longed shots may be slightly aggravating, but they were brilliantly used in Limelight. Halfway through watching Limelight, I realized how a majority of these shots were actually tracking shots! Who knew? Charlie Chaplin is another masters of the tracking shot along with Robert Altman and Paul Thomas Anderson!

I must mention, as much as it likes to think it does, Limelight completely fails at any attempt at actually being a comedy. One of the simple reasons is the fact that the melodrama outweighs the comedy. Secondly - it just isn’t funny. There’s a scene when Calvero sings about how he train flees, and the audience is laughing - but my face was expressionless. I say this with complete sadness- but Chaplin may have lost his touch with comedy when he finished Monsieur Verdoux. Part of making Limelight work- is we have to actually believe in the great comedic skills that Calvero once had. We can’t just see and Chaplin and believe that since it’s supposed to be semi-autobiographical he was actually funny. The flashbacks are poorly directed. Every single attempt at humour in Limelight is a complete failure. Luckily for myself, there were very fewer attempts than I was indeed expecting.

There’s a very nostalgic sense within both this film and Chaplin’s final film,  A Countess From Hong Kong, and that’s because it’s Chaplin reflecting on his life in some sort of way. Although A Countess From Hong Kong is more Chaplin reflecting on the evolution and Limelight is a more personal reflection - they both work in the fact. I actually had no idea that Chaplin had faded from success until I watched this film. It seemed like him shouting out “HEY! I’m still here! Give me attention!” would be far more pretentious than it indeed was in the actual film. I’m all for Chaplin shouting out wanting to be noticed - because in all honesty, he had a skill that could not be replicated. He had a skill that deserved to be recognized.

All in all, Limelight is a Chaplin film that deserves to be seen. He was over preoccupied with doing something new for once in his career that he neglected to notice some of the very stale acting in it.

Limelight,
1952,
Directed by Charlie Chaplin,
Starring:
Charlie Chaplin, Claire Bloom, Buster Keaton

★★★ /★★★★★



Monday, 15 April 2013

A Countess From Hong Kong (1967)


Charlie Chaplin Says “Farewell” With His Most Conventional Film... Ever.


I was dreading watching Chaplin’s final film, A Countess From Hong Kong, do to the general consensus that it was a very mediocre film. All in all, A Countess From Hong Kong is conventional, cliche, averagely acted, simple, but his has a degree of charm to it that makes up for all it’s other faults. A Countess From Hong Kong reminds me very much of Billy Wilder’s Avanti!, which experiences the same flaws, but works even more because of it’s charm.

Just to give you an idea of what  A Countess From Hong Kong is about, I will give a quick summary. Marlon Brando is a very serious business tycoon who is sailing back to America. He wakes up one morning, to find Sophia Loren in his closet. Now, this doesn’t sound all too bad so far - but believe me, she becomes quite the burden. We learn that Loren has snuck into Brando’s closet in the hope of being transported to America, away from Hong Kong. Matters become even more troublesome when they discover she is without a passport. Everything goes wrong just enough to make  A Countess From Hong Kong into a decent screwball comedy.

A Countess From Hong Kong is nothing like a Chaplin film. It seems like the man had been relaxing after a very successful career, and he decided to make one last film. Its sad to say, but Chaplin did conform to the concept of popular cinema at the time. The isn’t even the slightest Chaplin touch.  A Countess From Hong Kong is not particularly funny - but even it’s attempts don’t bear the slightest resemblance to the sense of humour of Charlie Chaplin. Overall, Chaplin doing something unique from his other films is not an issue, I just thought this was worth commenting on.

After  A Countess From Hong Kong was over and the credits were running by, I was certainly struck. Of course, there’s Marlon Brando in the film. Overall, he delivers a very average performance that does not have much of anything to comment on, due to the fact that his character was intended to be the definition of bland. Then there’s Sophia Loren who plays an Audrey Hepburn type character, almost as good as Audrey would. Loren demonstrates a new side to her acting, considering she mostly starred in very dramatic films (see Two Women and El Cid). Loren’s performance is somewhat humours and overall, the greatest performance in the film (mind you, she did also have the most space to act). Sydney Chaplin, son of Charlie Chaplin, also has a large part in this film. Although I have not seen him in any other films (I have not yet seen Limelight), I enjoyed seeing yet another name I recognized. Just to contribute to the massive compilation of stars, we have Tippi Hedren. Her character performance is a short one and like most everyone else, she doesn’t have much room to act (not that she’s that great an actress). Next, there’s a small scene with Geraldine Chaplin (the daughter of Charlie Chaplin). I have indeed seen her in several other films (Dr. Zhivago, Chaplin, Buffalo Bill and the Indians or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson, Chaplin, The Age of Innocence, Talk to Her, and The Orphanage), in fact, I am quite fond of her as an actress. Once again, there is no room for her to demonstrate her brilliant acting ability. Next there’s Carol Cleveland, who is a big guest star in all the Monty Python films and sketches. In fact, not only did she have no room to act - but I had to rewatch most of the film to find her in it. Finally, the greatest cameo of all... Charlie Chaplin. Not that this is a great performance by him (his greatest was probably in Monsieur Verdoux or The Great Dictator), but it is very nostalgic to see him in his final role. Overall, there was little room to demonstrate great acting (except for Sophia Loren), but the cavalcade of stars helped make A Countess From Hong Kong enjoyable.

Once I had pressed play on A Countess From Hong Kong, I knew how it was going to end. It demonstrates a great deal of conventionality. I was considering saying it suffers from conventionality when I realized, it doesn’t really. A Countess From Hong Kong works best because it’s the conventional film we expect it to be. I couldn’t possibly imagine it with a unique twist to it.

A Countess From Hong Kong is really not a film I can talk about for a lengthy period of time. We’ve most likely seen very similar films to it, but we get a very great feeling of nostalgia and entertainment while doing Charlie Chaplin do his take on such a very cliche sort of film. Just to summarize my thoughts, the cast is fabulous, but don’t expect to see any great acting from anyone with the sole exception of Sophia Loren. I would go as far as to say A Countess From Hong Kong is underrated. No, it isn’t very underrated, but the fact that many people consider it to be awful, when really it’s a decent film that slightly surpassed my mediocre expectation for the film itself.


A Countess From Hong Kong,
1967,
Directed by Charlie Chaplin,
Starring: Marlon Brando, Sophia Loren and Sydney Chaplin

★★★ /★★★★★

Ranked:
4. Monsieur Verdoux
5. A Countess From Hong Kong
6. The Kid
7. The Circus


Sunday, 14 April 2013

The Circus (1928)

Charlie Chaplin At His Utter Plainest Attempts At Making Us Laugh


The Circus is a very dragged out version of Charlie Chaplin's most average short films. It does not have the amazing sense of comedy that Chaplin presented in The Gold Rush, or the earnest dramatic side of The Great Dictator. So... what does The Circus have to drag us into it? It has a few examples of what Chaplin can do physically... but not much else. I can’t quite comprehend what everyone seem to see in the film.

Yes, The Circus manages to give us a few classic moments, but none of them are quite as memorable as they would like to be. There is no comparison whatsoever from the classic moments of City Lights to the supposed “classic” moments of The Circus. On the topic of comparison between those two films, City Lights stands at such a high degree of sweetness and kindness that The Circus, does not have. The Circus’s sense of humour revolves around people chasing after The Little Tramp and idiots getting hit over the head with blunt objects. I will, however, state that the backdrop of the film being set in a circus, does assist the film’s theme of buffoonery. The many conveyor belts, tight ropes and ferocious animals help Chaplin demonstrate his great talent as a clown. I will say that there are indeed some good laughs in The Circus, but not a single one has managed to stick with me. I should add, that I don’t think Chaplin was too fond of this film either. Although he never outright stated that he did not like it, he failed to even mention it in his autobiography.

I should mention here, that The Circus is completely unmemorable for me. I have seen it twice over the course of the last two years, and it does not stick for you. I made sure to write this very review directly after finishing the film in order to maintain a clear and vivid memory of the film. Perhaps it’s reason for being so very forgettable is it’s complete simplicity. It does not have unique sight gags such as Modern Times or witty moments such as The Great Dictator. The Circus has stunts that we could have actually gone to a circus, and seen them being performed by a superior circus performers. I’m not doubting Chaplin’s skill. I’m simply stating that Chaplin is a filmmaker, and I would rather see a circus performer perform circus acts rather than Charlie Chaplin perform them.

The Circus suffers from being very dry and uninspired. It seems like Chaplin was attempting to replicate the films of Buster Keaton, without the classic Keaton touch that would make such a film a classic. Keaton’s style was better suited to such a film. It’s clear that Buster Keaton was extraordinary at creating fabulous stunts and special effect sequences. Chaplin’s films were superior in the areas of social commentary and through the overall sweetness and kindness of his films. This said, there is a great deal of incredible stunts that would just have worked better should they be performed by the stone-faced Buster Keaton. With The Circus, Chaplin created a non-typical Chaplin film without noticing it. In 1928, this was only his second film and I doubt he fully understood the capacity of his physical humour. Much like his previous film The Kid, The Circus is rather stale.

I am actually quite amazed at the great skill Chaplin demonstrates throughout his multiple stunts. Any form of digital animation would not exist for years to come, so we know that Chaplin would have certainly performed the scene where is trapped in a cage with a lion and the scene where he is walking across a tightrope. I do not doubt that many safety precautions were placed in order to make sure that Chaplin did not get eaten by the lion or  fall to his tragic demise. It is, nonetheless, most refreshing to see humour being performed naturally, as opposed to being faked as it is in most modern films.

As I briefly stated earlier, The Circus lacks any degree of intelligence. Should one desire to see foolish endeavors at physical comedy, it would be a film right up their alley. It also lacks one of my favourite aspects of Chaplin’s other films. The Circus has no sense of a purpose other than to make you laugh. The Great Dictator was clearly an anti-Holocaust film. Modern Times was to raise awareness of the mistreatment the unemployed were forced to experience. Monsieur Verdoux was somewhat about the foolishness of the material way of life. Even The Kid, as much as I wasn’t a fan of it, had a purpose, and that was to give you a smile and a tear. But what does The Circus have to make it an important film? Well, could you say that The Circus is about the mistreatment of circus performers? I think such a comment would be evidence of someone trying to find meaning where there truly is none. This arises such a question as, “does a film need meaning, to be considered good?”. Most people confuse meaning in such a case with artistic imagery. No, not every film requires artistic imagery (it is certainly impressive if it does, however), but I believe every film requires a purpose. It requires a reason for being a film, and I do not think The Circus has such a thing.

I might as well recommend The Circus, even though I, personally, did not like it. Many people would enjoy a nice relaxing laugh that with a very light-hearted feel. Should that be your kind of film, I would certainly recommend this movie. However, should you be in search of a greater form of cinematic value, the rest of Chaplin’s filmography would most likely be better suited towards you. Overall, I consider The Circus to be a stunt-driven film that is overall, far too simple for it’s own good.

The Circus,
1928,
Directed by Charlie Chaplin,
Starring: Charlie Chaplin, Merna Kennedy and Harry Crocker
★★½ /★★★★★

Ranked:
5. The Kid
6. The Circus

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Monsieur Verdoux (1947)

A Quick Glimpse Into Charlie Chaplin's Dark Side

Monsieur Verdoux explores a side of Charlie Chaplin, we never thought we'd see. Monsieur Verdoux is a man who travels around the world, marrying as many women as possible and then murdering them to steal their money. However, Verdoux disguises himself as a gentlemen, in order to continue these habits. I should mention that he also has a wife and child back home who he actually loves, and has no intentions of killing.

Verdoux is a mesmerizing character. In one scene he seems like a heartless sociopath-serial killer, the next he is giving money to a strange woman in need. It almost seems as though he is very much out of place, which was Chaplin's intention. Although we would never believe such a character would exist, Chaplin proceeds to explore him. There is a great scene at the end SPOILER ALERT, where Verdoux has been captured by the police. He then proceeds to say something about how Americans are being paid to create killing machines that will go on to kill millions of women and children. When it comes back to Verdoux, he's just an amateur. It was that scene that struck me. Verdoux is not a character who it makes sense to sympathize with, and it truly makes no sense to sympathize with him. What is Chaplin trying to say with the character of Verdoux? Is it a statement on the irony of material life? The speech I referenced earlier in this paragraph is a clear anti-violence sort of message, but that is in no way persistent throughout the rest of the film. It has been said that Chaplin had a negative opinion of women, and that Verdoux was his way of demonstrating this into a film, yet, the fact that such a genius would make a  film for the sole sake of demonstrating abuse against women. Why does Verdoux kill only women? Surely he could make the same amount of money from killing a separate group of people. The questions pile up, and I wish I could think of answers, but I truly cannot. Did Chaplin even know what he wanted from this film? Probably not.

This is very far from being Chaplin's "funniest" film. In fact, I wouldn't consider it to be funny, at all. There are a few parts that are intended to make you laugh, and do indeed succeed in bringing you to a sensation of a comedic feel. Yet, this film is more of a dark-crime film than any sort of comedy. We laugh at the scenes where Chaplin demonstrates his knack for buffoonery (in fact, there's a great scene when Verdoux is at his wedding, when he notices one of his other wives in the audience. Needles to say, he has no choice but to hide). But unlike some of Chaplin's other masterpiece, it is not the comedy we re-act to... it's the overall darkness of the film.

In 1940, Chaplin made his first talkie, The Great Dictator. For the next seven years, he was rather lost until Orson Welles gave him the idea for Verdoux. For me, a minor problem with The Great Dictator, was the fact that Chaplin was having difficulty adapting to the usage of sound. Many of the dialogue scenes in The Great Dictator are people simply standing before an audience and talking. Chaplin was unable to shy away from the great scenes of him running around as he is chased by men who are far more muscular than himself. However, Monsieur Verdoux is so brilliant in it's usage of sound, that you would have never known. Chaplin uses voices to make us love Verdoux, and yes, and think we do love Verdoux. The voices of Verdoux is the voice of Chaplin, soft and strangely kind. However, the voices of his wives are generally high-pitched and aggravating. This helps us complete Chaplin's goal of making us sympathize with a woman killer.

Monsieur Verdoux seems to have the most luck I have ever seen. At one point, a police officer catches him and plans to take him back to the police station. They do this by taking a train - where the police officer manages to fall asleep. This is a great deal of luck for Verdoux, since he is able to escape because of that. He is also very fortunate do to the fact that all his small trick to get his wives to take their money from the bank are always successful. We get tired of seeing everything go right for Verdoux, and we begin to lose interest.

Monsieur Verdoux is a good film in the way that it makes us sympathize with the unlikely character. However, it certainly has a great deal of flaws. 

Monsieur Verdoux,
1947,
Directed by Charlie Chaplin,
Starring: Charlie Chaplin, Mady Correl and William Frawley
7/10 (B)


Ranked:
1. The Great Dictator
2. The Gold Rush
3. Modern Times
4. Monsieur Verdoux
5. The Kid

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The Great Dictator (1940)

*Please Note: From now on Cinema Stripped Down will no longer always have portions of The Film & The Plot, for the sake of maintaining your interest. I figure you don't much care to read me spitting out the detail of the production and the plot back to you - since you could easily research them yourself.

Charlie Chaplin is a man who rarely lets you down. It was extraordinarily controversial film upon the time of it's release. The mere fact that there was no attempt whatsoever to cover up the fact that he was being Hitler, was incredible  There was no subtly  Chaplin didn't want any subtly - because as all good Chaplin films do - they go for the belt. I mean, even Adolf Hitler loved this film!

The Great Dictator uses a great deal of comedy here to combine it with his solemn and sincere opinion on the holocaust. I imagine it like this, there's a first layer - a layer filled with slapstick humour and directly afterwards, there is what it wants to say. They come together and ignite in a great deal of sadness, despair and great laughs. The most tragic scene in this film is when the dictator, Hynkel, is when he pulls the modle of the Earth out of a globe. He proceeds to throw it into the air, while preforming a ballet. In this scene, he slowly and gracefully throws the globe up into the air while dancing around it. However, it soon hits the ground - and before Hynkel's eyes - it pops.

What Chaplin does brilliantly, is demonstrate Hynkel as a human being; not a monster. No, Chaplin is far from being a Nazi sympathizer, yet he is fully capable of clearly examining the situation. The ballet with the globe demonstrate a lot about Hynkel, as well, if you watch closely - he is always being told what to do by his advisers. Hynkel is not criminal mastermind, he's your average idiot put into a position of power. Still, Chaplin had no choice but to abandon this concept for the sake of the film's ending. Because, in the end, the Jewish barber is the man who has something to say.

The greatest moment in The Great Dictator is dead serious. I'm going to spoil the end of the film, so skip to the next paragraph if you choose to evade this detail. In the end of the film, The Jewish Barber is forced to deliver a speech, and he does so, with the most amazing beauty. In the long run, I cannot remember a single word Chaplin said during the speech - only how he said it. Others may have found beauty in his words, I did not. He speaks clearly, and for those five minutes - we see why Chaplin makes films. To me, that is without a doubt, Chaplin's greatest moment. I posted a link so you can watch it on the side.

Sadly, (I would not so much as call it a fault) The Great Dictator lacks the extraordinary visuals and genius of Modern Times. Although, that's not quite what Chaplin was attempting to reach with this film - I still think it could have been a vehicle towards ultimate success. I do feel that Chaplin could have done something with the camera to get into the minds of the characters and emulate their emotions. Instead, Chaplin sticks with the average shot for silent films (especially silent comedies), the extended mid-shot. The point of using this, is since a great deal of the humour comes from the great stunts, it seams far more realistic should the camera not cut - and if we get a good view of it. However, that's not really what The Great Dictator is about, so therefore it does slightly decrease for me.

The Great Dictator is smart, funny, tragic and overall, the best Chaplin film I've seen up to date.

The Great Dictator,
1940,
Directed by Charlie Chaplin,
Starring: Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard and Henry Daniell
8.5/10 (A)


Ranked:
1. The Great Dictator
2. The Gold Rush
3. Modern Times
4. The Kid

Friday, 5 April 2013

Modern Times (1936)

THE FILM:
In 1936, Charlie Chaplin's career was at the top of it's game. This was his last silent film (despite the fact that there's a little dialogue used only as a stylistic technique) and he would only have one major hit after Modern Times in 1936. His next film would be The Great Dictator which would be very successful and although his later films (Monsieur Verdoux, Limelight, A King in New York and A Countess From Hong Kong) aren't all awful - they weren't big box office hits like Chaplin's older films.

Chaplin's stance on talkies were not a positive one. He believed that his style of storytelling, would not work out with dialogue. There's a great scene in City Lights were Chaplin parodies Hollywood's new found love for talkies. It's actually quite amazing that Chaplin was able to continue his great career being one of the most popular directors at a time when he was pretty much the only person making silent films. Going from silent to sound was the biggest step in the evolution of cinema, yet Chaplin's skill was so evident that he was still able to be loved by everyone. Perhaps it's not that surprising since Chaplin is just as much if not even more popular today.

Chaplin came up with the concept for Modern Times while promoting City Lights in Europe. He witnessed the Great Depression and lack of employment the poor people everywhere were having to face. However, Modern Times received it's finishing touch after a conversation between Chaplin and Ghandi. The exact details of this conversation are unknown, but we do know they revolved around the subject of "machinery with only consideration of profit". I find it amusing to picture the two men together, however they did have one major aspect in common: they were both sheer geniuses.

Where does Modern Times stand today? It's considered to be among Chaplin's greatest films without a doubt. It currently holds a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8.6 on IMDb. The best way to view Modern Times is on The Criterion Collection.

THE PLOT:
We open on a massive factory filled with complex machines made up by giant gears. Everyone works hard as if they're nothing but robots. We soon learn that they have no choice but to work, because there is no work for anyone. In walks The Tramp, he suddenly stands out to us due to his unique attire in comparison to those surrounding him. He proceeds to fool around the factory until he is fired.

He then walks down the busy urban streets where he is mistaken for a communist protester and sent into jail. In jail, The Tramp is locked outside of his cell one day when a group of criminals break in and try to break out The Tramp's cell mate. The Tramp springs into action and defeats the criminals. The warden of the jail repays him by giving him parole.

Meanwhile, a young woman is struggling to keep her father and young sisters alive. After her father's death her sisters are taken away from her. The woman then meets up with The Tramp where they fall in love. Together, they search for employment while seeking the life so many others have always taken for granted.

THE CRITICISM:
What we take with us after a viewing of Modern Times is the great cartoon-ish feel that Chaplin sets up for us. There's a great scene when Chaplin dives down a conveyor belt where we see him sliding through a group of giant gears. The opening of Modern Times sets up a nearly steam punk world. This was very unique at the time considering steam punk was not a popular genre. It hadn't even been invented officially yet. This is why people congratulate the innovation of Charlie Chaplin.

Yes, here we get to see more of Chaplin's physical comedy. Unlike my review of The Gold Rush, I'm not going to go through and discuss each classic comedic moment in Modern Times. Although this film is funny, it's not quite as funny as some of the other Chaplin films. If you want to see a Chaplin film for a laugh and not much more, see The Gold Rush because although there is little more than laughs in it - there are so many great laughs that you really don't care for more. Modern Times is primarily about the social justice issues arriving in the lower class as opposed to some good jokes. Yes, there are indeed funny physical humour moments in Modern Times, but when you take the DVD out, that's really not what you want to take back with you. Overall, I approve of Modern Times for going beyond the laughs, which City Ligths did a little - but Modern Times took that concept, and far exceed it.

My main quibble with Modern Times is small - yet it stay with you. I understand why Chaplin used talking in the factory for a brief moment (only the rich were heard talking through intercoms) but it's a distracting technique that takes you out of the mood that Chaplin's films are intended to set.



"The times, they are a changin'" sang Bob Dylan in one of his biggest songs "The Times They Are a Changin'". No, Bob Dylan has absolutely nothing in common with Charlie Chaplin, but I chose to quote that song because of the nostalgic feel I pull back from Modern Times. There is nothing flattering about humanity in Modern Times, and yet, it makes me wish I were to be living in another time period. That's nostalgia - and it takes a great director to say so much about the horrors of the times while making you still feels a sense of nostalgia. Chaplin's attempt to say something about the misfortune that the unemployed were to experience works because he does it in a unique way. When directors such as Steven Spielberg want to make you feel something about a subject - they make it as unsubtle as possible. Chaplin uses humour to make you feel on a subject. It certainly works.

Modern Times,
1936,
Directed by Charlie Chaplin,
Starring: Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard and Henry Bergman
7.5/10 (B+)


Ranked:
1. The Gold Rush
2. Modern Times
3. The Kid