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,
Directed by Charlie Chaplin,
Starring: Marlon Brando, Sophia Loren and Sydney Chaplin

★★★ /★★★★★

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

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