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04 July 2011

[Silent Film Marathon] 23# Modern Times (1936)

Directed & Produced by Charlie Chaplin
Written by Charlie Chaplin & Paulette Goddard
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy
Runtime: 85 Minutes

This film will not be forgotten the history of cinema because of the crafted beauty. This is the last time we see Chaplin’s iconic tramp character and he certainly left with a good exit. Modern Times is almost perfect in every way. It’s full of great characters, great set design, and a terrific story and with Chaplin doubling as a composer the music was outstanding. It’s 1936 and silent films are pretty much obliterated by the rise of sound pictures since 1928 with ‘The Jazz Singer’. All the action shows the insanity of the modern world and being 1936, it’s just when times are getting better for the suffering world of ‘the depression era’. It boasts great emotion and does the obvious thing of making you laugh all in one. Chaplin planned on this film actually being a talkie film, and I am glad that he didn’t because if he did, who knows if this film would be good. Both ways I think it would probably be great and it’s great that Chaplin stuck to his guns one last time. Although using small clips of dialogue and synchronised sound effects and music, it stands with it’s intertitles and marvellous story as a silent film and is definitely one of Chaplin’s greatest pictures.

The Tramp is an assembly-line worker driven insane by the monotony of his job. After a long spell in an asylum, he searches for work, only to be mistakenly arrested as a Red agitator. Released after foiling a prison break, Chaplin makes the acquaintance of orphaned gamine (Paulette Goddard) and becomes her friend and protector. He takes on several new jobs for her benefit, but every job ends with a quick dismissal and yet another jail term. During one of his incarcerations, she is hired to dance at a nightclub and arranges for him to be hired there as a singing waiter. He proves an enormous success, but they are both forced to flee their jobs when the orphanage officials show up to claim the girl. Dispirited, she moans, "What's the use of trying?" But the ever-resourceful Chaplin tells her to never say die, and our last image is of Chaplin and The Gamine strolling down a California highway towards new adventures.
The tramp inside the machine.
The Tramp is so simplistically one of the greatest characters in cinema and is 100% sweet, honest and most of all, lovable. Since his character rose millions of people have identified and connected with this character, and despite the fact initially he is a homeless character, he is an honest and sweet man. The creation of the tramp was when Chaplin was told to put funny make-up on and he basically grabbed a hat, large pair of shoes, a pair of baggy pants and a tight coat, and amazingly the character would come to be one of the greatest in cinema history. Many critics and film enthusiasts have identified this character as Chaplin’s social commentary on life and to some degree, it is. Chaplin's social commentary, while critical of the faults and excesses created by the capitalist system, also shows support and belief in the “American Dream”. In Modern Times, Chaplin creates a “portrayal consistent with popular leftist stereotypes of wealthy capitalists and oppressed workers in the 1930s. He is simply one of the finest characters there is and is 100% golden for sure.
The cast of characters included in the film was simply too good. Beside out little friend the tramp, we have a gamin (Paulette Godard), big bill the steel mill worker and several other small characters that make this film brilliant. To start with I’d like to talk about the gamin. The gamin is a homeless girl (around 16-17 I assume) who soon becomes an orphan when her father is shot in the street one day and soon becomes friend with the tramp after bumping into him. Paulette Goddard is simply one of the most beautiful actresses there ever was. With a heart-warming smile and a beautiful face that boasts emotion she is both a talented and beautiful actress.
Paulette giving a delightful smile.

Like in City Lights the music was done surprisingly good and gives a very different feel to the film like any other silent film. Being 1936 the quality was clearly better and synchronising sound was in there. So the music and sound effects where all very well synced and created terrific comedy. There was sometimes dialogue used but it’s never character to character. We first have the boss of the steel mill who talks through a video camera to one of the workers and then we have the feeding machine that introduces itself. We also have some dialogue from the radio at times, but other than this there is no real dialogue used.

Well Chaplin obviously knew this would be the last time his tramp character would ever get used, so he made him go out with a bang. In one of the film’s final moments The Tram must sing at the café. He forgets the lyrics so the gamin writes the lyrics on his cuffs, which when he is dancing come off. So he improvises in singing and for the first time we hear out tramp let out a voice, but not an English one. Not only was Chaplin a great writer, director and all that other stuff, but he could fairly sing too. The song was in an Italian spoken one and was outrageously funny and amusing.
The Tramp in the eating machine.
The first fine moment of the film is when the tramp is at the assembly line. It really shows the insanity of the assembly line which was something that was become largely used in industries. Another great scene is when the sellers of the feeding machine arrive at the factory to test out the product. The tramp is selected and the machine goes wild in this frantically comedic scene. Later in that day at the steel mill the Tramp goes absolutely nuts and starts going insane, cranking people’s noses and buttons on clothes. The tramp seems to go in and out of jail like crazy and after he comes out of the asylum he picks up a flag that fell out of a van. He waves it a little shouting to the van that they dropped it and unknowingly, a crowd of protesters came unknowingly behind him. So the tramp is arrested as an opposed communist protesting leader and gets out of jail eventually.

Eventually in the film the tramp gets a job as a night watch and along with the gamin, they stay there for the night and have some fun (not that kind of fun). They go to the toy department and begin to roller-skate around. Unknowingly the tramp is avoiding death as he skates near a broken banister blindfolded. The final of my favourite scenes is definitely when the tramp must sing. It was comically brilliant and very entertaining.
Chaplin in his imagination scene.
Another sweet romance story
Chaplin is always good at making simplistically golden stories, and when it comes to romance, he does this. Although the gamin is likely to be only a 16 year old girl, the love life between her and the tramp was beautiful and brings a smile to your face. In one scene the tramp is imagining him and the gamin in a home and the scene was captivating and made me smile as It took my heart away. It’s the sincere kind of emotion that makes Chaplin’s films great. During this time, Chaplin married Goddard and the chemistry between them in acting was terrific.
The film's final moment.
The film leaves our tramp character very well with him and the gamin walking down the street together, ready to face anything that comes up to make ends meet. Very many have claimed this to be the finest of Chaplin’s workings and to an extent it is agreeable. Alongside The Kid and The Gold Rush this is one of Chaplin's fine workings and is my favourite of his work so far. It is comically genius, masterfully written and is full of wonderful characters. Overall this is one of the highlights of his career and is a film that should not be forgotten…ever!

My Rating: 10/10

1 comment:

  1. Of all Chaplin's films this is the one I like the best.



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