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15 September 2011

Charlie: The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin (2004

Directed by: Richard Schikel
Genre: Documentary
Runtime: 132 Minutes

For anyone who seeks to learn more about this illustrious man, then this documentary is certainly for you. With a great collaboration of actors, film historians and directors, this engaging documentary is pieced together like gold. We get to see footage of Chaplin on and off screen in this the wondrous 2-hour documentary that overlooks the life of Charles Chaplin. The documentary could go on to be 4 hours long. 

There is a lot to say about this amazing man, a superhero for the early industry of cinema, and a legend. This documentary will make you laugh, make you think as well as possibly get teary eyes at some of the touching footage of his life and films. No director has the magnitude of fame that Chaplin had. You could call him one of cinemas first geniuses and from his short films to his feature films in his later life; they all have a special and unique quality. 

His films make you laugh, make you cry and at times, they can be very thought provoking. Just look at the work of “Modern Times”, a film that has the tramp working at the production line, which overlooks the dehumanisation and alienation of labour. At this point in Chaplin’s life, he has done many things, made many films and of course lived through a lot. No celebrity’s life is more interesting than this simply because no matter how much footage there is of this great man, and biographies and commentaries, there is still mystery behind this soul.

The documentary begins with looking at the short films Chaplin produced and got in to the industry. It started at keystone in 1913 were director, Max Sennet, hired him and it was not long before he created his iconic tramp character. At keystone, he made several characters featuring the tramp, and soon the audience demanded more Chaplin. In 1914, Chaplin made over 20 short comedies, which gained him overnight fame.
Chaplin was there around the inception of films. Films may have been around in the mid 1900’s but it was around the time he started that films began to increase in popularity. Chaplin was the biggest celebrity of this era and of phenomenal size. By the time he was 28, he was a millionaire. After keystone he worked with the Essanay Company were he went on to make several shorts and two-reelers comedies that we gloriously get to see in action. Through these short films, we see his comic genius that was there even from the early days. Form keystone to the United Artists company, we see a lot of Chaplin’s work.
 
This documentary is pieced together wondrously. You could not ask for a better collage of great Chaplin footage that shows him in his finest moments on screen. In addition, all the historians, directors and actors that are in here have marvellous things to say about Chaplin’s amazing talents. We have Woody Allen, a director and actor comedian who seems to have followed Chaplin slightly in directing and acting in his movies. He claims “City Lights” to be his best film, but believes that the globe scene in “The Great dictator” is predictable and bland.

Johnny Depp says the famous 'dance of the rolls' sequence from “The Gold Rush” cannot be copied (he tried in “Benny and Joon”) because facial expressions and movements are beyond mime and exclusive to Chaplin's Tramp character. There is of course, so much more. We have Martin Scorsese, Robert Downey Jr, Claire Bloom, Geraldine Chaplin, Syndney Chaplin, Milos Forman, Richard Attenborough, Norman Lloyd, Andrew Sarris, Jeanine Basinger and more! This is one the most informative biographical documentaries you will find, and it does plenty of justice to its subject.

Chaplin once said, “If you want to know me, watch my movies”, which is very true. Looking through his films, we see heart and soul poured in to each production, with social commentary and expression. Not many directors have control over their films as Chaplin did. He made what he wanted when he wanted. He is like the early Stanley Kubrick

Chaplin accepting his honorary award in 1972.
Chaplin’s perseverance against the film industries throughout his years worked. This documentary is excellent to dive in to the life of Charles Chaplin and you will learn as much here (if not more) as you would in his autobiography. It is amazingly informative and it will make you want to see a Chaplin film again. This is a finely crafted biography that will make you laugh, make you think and possibly, get teary-eyed or cry. You will learn a lot from this documentary, and it will certainly make you think differently of Chaplin at least a little.

My Rating: 9/10

3 comments:

  1. Great review as always. I have been meaning to see this.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great review. I need to check out more of his films before I watch any of the documentaries about him though.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I might like to check this out. great review!

    ReplyDelete

 

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