Chaplin's last 'silent' film, filled with sound effects, was made when everyone else was making talkies. Charlie turns against modern society, the machine age, (The use of sound in films ?) and progress. Firstly we see him frantically trying to keep up with a production line, tightening bolts. He is selected for an experiment with an automatic feeding machine, but various mishaps leads his boss to believe he has gone mad, and Charlie is sent to a mental hospital - When he gets out, he is mistaken for a communist while waving a red flag, sent to jail, foils a jailbreak, and is let out again. We follow Charlie through many more escapades before the film is out.Written by
Colin Tinto <[email protected]>
Hilarious, touching, anarchic, revolutionary, realist, surreal, of its time, timeless - Modern Times is a multifaceted work of genius. When it's over and you recall the number of sight gags and magic sequences Chaplin has packed into 85 minutes, it is incredible - the conveyer belt and nut turning; Chaplin caught in the cogwheels; the feeding machine; the Red Flag march; the "nose powder"; the roller skating ballet; the waiter with tray caught up in the dance (my favourite); the gibberish song - and many more. Then there is his mixing of silent and sound techniques, making the best of both worlds, not falling between stools as some directors might have done.
Of course, there is also a political and social dimension; many of the scenes refer to the impact of technical advances, of bureaucracy, and of the then current depression, on the ordinary "little man". And it is the little man, the individual caught up in society's complex machinery, whom Chaplin championed. He may have sympathised with left-wing political parties and unions in so far as they supported ordinary working people, but Chaplin's essential beliefs are enshrined in the final "words" and shot, with him telling Paulette Godard, that she should keep smiling, they will get along, as they walk, a couple of individuals, into an uncertain future. Beyond politics, the individual has to rely on his or her own resources and spirit to survive.
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