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Charlie Chaplin


Peter T Chattaway
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Wow, if I wasn't trying to curb my spending these days, I would be sorely tempted to get the new Charlie Chaplin boxed set -- it's got my two favorite films of his (1921's The Kid and 1931's City Lights), plus The Chaplin Revue is a not-bad anthology of three of his short films, including what I believe was his last short film ever, The Pilgrim (1923) -- a most-see for those who want to explore Chaplin's treatment of religion. True, the set also includes three of Chaplin's more questionable non-Tramp films, including A Woman of Paris (a dull melodrama, as I recall, made in 1923), Monsieur Verdoux (1947) and A King in New York (a very self-serving and generally unfunny spoof of McCarthyism made in the late 1950s), but what the hey.

The set also includes 1928's The Circus, so between this and the first boxed set (which included 1925's The Gold Rush, 1936's Modern Times, 1940's The Great Dictator and the early-1950s film Limelight), it would seem all of Chaplin's feature-length films are available now (except for A Countess in Hong Kong, a by-all-accounts-just-awful 1960s film that AFAIK has never been available on video in any format).

FWIW, I wrote an undergrad paper on Chaplin's treatment of religion that became one of the first articles of mine ever posted on the web -- at Jeffrey's site, in fact. I wrote a revised, shortened, and more newspapery version of this for the local Christian paper not long afterwards, when a Chaplin retrospective came to the Cinematheque.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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A Countess From Hong Kong is plain unwatchable. I had two reasons to give it a chance: Chaplin, and a fascination with films on marquees in the summer of '67 when my family was in the U. S. on furlough. Oh, and Sophia Loren. I couldn't bear more than half an hour. It stinks.

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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Enjoyed your essay, Peter. I'm with you on City Lights but I prefer Modern Times or The Great Dictator to The Kid -- precisely because of that dream sequence in the latter. Its meaning is muddled and it doesn't advance the plot. I think Chaplin is a little too in love with himself as a director on that film.

Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

Do you know the deep dark secret of the avatars?

It's big. It's fat. It's Greek.

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  • 1 year later...

One person who was able to make films that were rich with humour as well as intense meaning was Charley Chaplin.

Two great films of his, "Modern Times" and "Goldrush" were rather funny, exuberant, and sad all at the same time, while his shorter films, such as "City Lights" were OK.

One of Charley Chaplin's films, "the Great Dictator" was his most intense, and probably his best, with many funny moments in it. However one other film of his, "Monsieur Verdeau", which was sort of a black comedy, was one that I didn't care for as much.

Any thoughts on the Charley Chaplin Films? Too bad they're not showing in theatres anymore, either.

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Nice topic, Miki. A Chaplin collection was recently released on DVD and is worth picking up; I own most of the remastered laserdisc titles from the mid to late 1990s, and as wonderful as they are, I assume the DVDs are even better.

I'm surprised you'd describe City Lights -- an acknowledged masterpiece -- as just "OK," but not all films work for all people. If it's laughs you want, try The Circus.

I'm not the biggest fan of The Great Dictator, but I have a soft spot for Limelight. And I agree with you on The Gold Rush, which is a personal favorite.

Hmmm. Haven't watched it in years. Time to give it another look.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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[This thread was merged with an existing one.] >> Always use the search engine before starting a new thread, Miki.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Two great films of his, "Modern Times" and "Goldrush" were rather funny, exuberant, and sad all at the same time

"If the Christian subculture exists primarily to condemn the world, you can be sure that Jesus is not having any part of it." - John Fischer

"Ignorance is excusable when it is borne like a cross, but when it is wielded like an axe, and with moral indignation, then it becomes something else indeed." - Flannery O'Connor

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For some reason The Great Dictator is my favorite film, even though it's completely incongruous for a Jewish barber to be quoting the Gospel of Luke (and incongruous for Chaplin as well). City Lights is more tightly constructed/directed/edited, but at least two scenes in The Great Dictator (the globe balloon ballet and the shaving scene) are unparalleled masterpieces of physical comedy.

City Lights is also probably his best balance of storytelling, comedy, and social commentary, although Modern Times comes pretty close. The social commentary could get a little out of whack at times (witness the dream sequence in The Kid or the trial scene in Monsieur Verdoux).

I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the "Charley" spelling

Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

Do you know the deep dark secret of the avatars?

It's big. It's fat. It's Greek.

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Thanks for all your output on Charley Chaplin films. I live right near Boston, and I sometimes scan the ARts/movie sections for possible showings of Charlie Chaplin movies, not to mention other favorite films of mine. I totally forgot about City LIGHTS. MAYBE it was Limelights that I got "City Lights" mixed up with.

I enjoyed the "Great Dictator" a great deal, because it DID deal with disturbing matters, which was necessary. Black comedy, which "Monsieur Verdeaux" seemed to have all through it, unfortunately, is something that I could never, ever get into, for some reason, but, different strokes for different folks, as some people say.

I guess I must've missed some of the Chaplin movies. Since I'm not a big TV watcher, I don't have cable, a VCR, or a DVD player. I had no idea that Chaplin movies were out on DVD/. Thanks for the info.

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I've never quite gotten into Modern Times (1936). I know it's got a lot of critical respect, but -- at least where those giant gears are concerned -- it has always felt to me like Chaplin was trying to do Buster Keaton a decade after the fact.

Like I say above, The Kid (1921) and City Lights (1931) are my favorites of his feature-length films, though that probably just exposes what a rank sentimentalist I am. The thing is, those particular films are rooted in very powerfully rendered relationships, whereas I suspect The Gold Rush (1925) and The Circus (1928) don't linger in my brain so much because they were not. (And I don't care much for The Great Dictator (1940), partly because The Tramp really shouldn't be talking -- Chaplin's voice doesn't really match his image, does it? -- and partly because it ends on such a sermonizing note.)

Just wondering, who else here has seen A Woman of Paris (1923), possibly the only film Chaplin directed that he did not star in? I have, but it has been so long since I saw it, I don't remember much except I didn't care for it.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 5 months later...

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 2 years later...
because The Tramp really shouldn't be talking -- Chaplin's voice doesn't really match his image, does it?

In preparation for having some time stuck in bed this week, I went to the library to get some humor (if it worked for Norman Cousins...) and one that I picked up was The Gold Rush. To my surprise, it's 2 discs. One has the 1942 sound version, the other the 1925 silent version. Is there any reason that I should even bother touching disc 1?

A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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In preparation for having some time stuck in bed this week, I went to the library to get some humor (if it worked for Norman Cousins...) and one that I picked up was The Gold Rush. To my surprise, it's 2 discs. One has the 1942 sound version, the other the 1925 silent version. Is there any reason that I should even bother touching disc 1?

The sound version, prepared by Chaplin, had definite charms of its own. The Tramp doesn't talk -- instead, there's a sort of tongue-in-cheek quasi-documentary commentary track, doing much the same thing that I used to do with my kids watching silent films. The narrator calls the Tramp "the little fellow" throughout ("Now let me see, thought the little fellow...")

My extremely brief review

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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There's a month-long series of Chaplin shorts screening in Seattle, Monday nights for the rest of September.

I've seen most of these on the small screen, but it would be fun to try them out on a bigger scale. And maybe the prints will be better.

Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

Do you know the deep dark secret of the avatars?

It's big. It's fat. It's Greek.

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If it's laughs you want, try <i>The Circus</i>.

Andrew O'Hehir has, and he loves what he saw!

What I'm trying to say is that I get it: You think you don't want to see a Chaplin movie. You imagine it'll be insipid, boring and somehow culturally embarrassing. Trust me on this: Just sit down and watch "The Circus," the rarely seen feature that kicks off Janus Films' major Chaplin retrospective, which opens this week at New York's Film Forum and will then tour the country. Do that, and the years melt away; whatever may at first seem off-putting about watching a black-and-white silent evaporates into pure joy. I laughed! I cried! (Though I laughed a lot more.) I am totally not kidding!

It goes without saying that if you have the opportunity to see The Circus, you should go. You won't regret it.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 2 years later...

It's been years since I've seen them, so I'd be hard-pressed to recall details, but I do recall finding much to appreciate and even enjoy in Monsieur Verdoux and A King in New York - some solid social and economic commentary in both.

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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  • 9 months later...

Jonathan Rosenbaum has re-posted an article he wrote on the boxed sets that started this thread, e.g.:

 

I assume it’s partly this kind of continuing backlash that held back the U.S. release of eight of the dozen features in the Warner/MK2 Chaplin box set for about half a year after they came out in Europe. The first four were The Gold Rush, Modern Times, The Great Dictator, and Limelight, and it’s not surprising that the more controversial and less commercial Chaplin titles — Verdoux, King, A Woman of Paris — were saved for the second batch.

 

The packaging of the PAL and NTSC versions are different in other respects. European customers also received illustrated booklets in all dozen packages and in some cases more informative details on the boxes themselves. Furthermore, they received A Woman of Paris and A King in New York separately, while these two features are indecorously shoehorned together in the American set, presumably for no better reason than the fact that they’re both regarded as awkward encumbrances, like two unwanted children. (The first is silent and doesn’t star Chaplin, the second unabashedly anti-American; and both were box office flops.) . . .

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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