2 may. 2014

My Review: Modern Times (8/10)

"Buck up - never say die. We'll get along."

I can't think of a more fitting line than that final one from the Tramp to the Gamin to say farewell to silent films as they cheerfully walk towards the horizon. By 1936 everyone was watching talkies and they expected Modern Times to be Chaplin's first one considering his previous film, City Lights, had already incorporated some sound effects five years ago. Modern Times is considered one of Chaplin's finest movies and perhaps a lot of it has to do with the fact that it was his last silent film so it has the nostalgic factor going for it. The way Chaplin incorporates sound in Modern Times is pure genius because the only moments where we hear sound is when they come from mechanical devices, so in a way he blended the social critique of the Industrial age with his own critique of the use of sound in film. This mechanical monster that was taking over his industry was putting an end to the silent era which made him such a popular figure. Chaplin may have stated that his films aren't social critiques, but I don't think anyone managed to capture the human spirit during that era better than he did. During the first hour of this film which I earnestly enjoyed I couldn't quite understand why this film was considered superior to his other films which I enjoyed more. Up to that moment there wasn't really a scene that stood out for me like there had been in all his other features. Then suddenly when I was about to lose hope came the restaurant scene where the Tramp performs a song where we can't understand what he's saying, but through his gestures he makes himself perfectly understood. That was the scene that sold this movie for me and reminded me of Chaplin's genius. The ending in Modern Times is perhaps my favorite ending in all of Chaplin's films, although I still think I would rank City Lights as his best film. 

In his last silent film Charles Chaplin stars as the Tramp once again, and this time we find him working at an assembly line in a factory. The quick working pace and the mechanized movements he has to make slowly begin to affect him. He can't keep up with the pace in the assembly line and production is delayed because of him. During a lunch break he is chosen for experimentation with an automatic feeding machine that they want to sell to the president of the steel corporation. The machine goes haywire and the Tramp also begins to lose his sanity so he is sent to a mental hospital. Eventually he is released but after an unfortunate incident he is mistaken for a communist and imprisoned. In prison he becomes a hero by stopping several prisoners from breaking out of jail so he is released. Unemployed and unable to find a job all he wants is to go back to prison, but when he meets a Gamin (Paulette Goddard) and falls in love with her, he makes it his goal to find a job and buy a house where the two can live happily ever after, but in these modern times it won't be an easy task.

Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard have excellent chemistry together although the film is a little too sentimental at times. In Modern Times, Chaplin manages to once again balance pathos with slapstick, but I found some of the scenarios to be a little too similar to his other films so I felt it was getting a bit repetitive. However, what Chaplin does really well here is include the social elements of the time and use it to his advantage by focusing on the struggle the people had adapting to the modern industrial age. He does this by using satire through his brilliant physical comedy. In an era of dehumanization, Chaplin humanizes Modern Times with a sweet and tender story reminding everyone that the obstacles can be overcome. With every new problem that the Tramp has to face somehow he always finds a way to remain hopeful and rise to the occasion. That is perhaps why his comedies still remain timeless and continues to touch the hearts of those who encounter Chaplin for the first time. They will also understand that dialogue was not always necessary to tell a story, and the best to do so was Chaplin with his unique energy and brilliance.


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