Thursday, May 24, 2007

Modern Times

Modern Times; Silent tragicomedy, USA, 1936; D: Charlie Chaplin, S: Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Henry Bergman, Chester Conklin

The Tramp works on a assembly line in a huge factory, having to curve screws all day long. He becomes mad and ends up in a mental institution, but after he becomes well again he doesn't have a job anymore and accidentally ends up in prison. Since he there foiled criminals from escape, the warden releases him fro jail. On the street he meets a girl who lost a father and doesn't have a home. The couple settles down in a old shack and starts working as entertainers but get fired, thus end up once again on the street.

Some critics call "Modern Times" the best film Charlie Chaplin ever made. It's a cute, simple film with a lot of emotions and care for it's character. But it seems they allowed and tolerated all kind of nonsense in it because of it's reputation as a classic because the overhyped "Modern Times" are a step bellow Chaplin's better films. The main problem is that Chaplin didn't wrote any kind of screenplay but just spontaneously went on to film the scenes, thus creating an episodic half-plot that meandereds from one misstep of the hero to another, loosing itself slightly in the dark context of the clever critique of the modern industrialisation of the world. The exposition is without doubt excellent: from the opening shots, where a hurdle of sheep is switched to a scene of a hurdle of tired workers, up to the legendary sequence where the Tramp is quickly working on an assembly line but when he sneezes he looses his line thus becoming mad, the story shows the inhumane industry system that lost the insight for the little man from the urge for production. Some gags are bizarre (like the one where the Tramp becomes so mad he even wants to curve the screw on the buttons of a dress on the chest of a lady) but some are even beyond bizarre (the one where the Tramp ends up in jail and mixes up cocaine (!) with salt) that don't seem balanced even despite the excellent Paulette Goddard since Chaplin went on too deep into pretentiousness and naive mood: in his wish for everyone to like the Tramp he presented him as an ideal, a saint, the most innocent man in the world, almost like a messiah, instead of a realistic character. Despite not being funny enough and too serious, "Modern Times" is a quality achievement that amusingly paraphrases "Metropolis" and offers enough genius scenes.


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