TITLE: "Modern Times"
YEAR OF RELEASE: 1936
DIRECTOR: Charlie Chaplin
STARS: Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard
EDITOR: Willard Nico, Charlie Chaplin
AWARDS: National Film Registry (1989)
BOX OFFICE: $8,500,000 (approx.) (USA)
RUN TIME: 87 min.
VIEWING FORMAT: 35 mm. Film Print
Chaplin's "Modern Times" revolves around his famous "Little Tramp" role, in the last appearance of the character. After losing his job in a Depression era factory, he must find ways to make due and achieve the American dream with his girl (Goddard) by his side.
WHY THIS IS THE FILM OF THE WEEK:
This film is often considered one of the great pieces of cinema. This was Chaplin's first overtly political film, and was also his first "talkie," though he did everything in his power to limit that.
Chaplin addressed, in very humorous tones, the treatment of factory workers, the ideal of the American family, and the treatment of vagrants throughout the film. Almost everyone with money is portrayed immorally, while factory workers, bums, and street urchins are the heroes of the tale. Key scenes portraying these are: the famous feeding machine, the machinery scene where the Tramp plays a young assistant, and the final scene in the restaurant, where the tramp serves the aristocratic elite. This social commentary lead to Chaplin's later troubles with The House on Un-American Activities, who accused him of being a Communist. He left America, rather than become a further target of their behavior.
By 1936, "talkies" had become the norm in the movie world, but Chaplin thought his "Little Tramp" character would lose his charm (and international audience) if he were to speak. So, anyone who is heard speaking in the film, is heard through machinery, or off of a record player, and Chaplin's only speaking lines, are a song, whose words are gibberish, during the climax of the film.
"Modern Times" is a classic example of a comedy transcending its generation. Chaplin made a politically charges, situational comedy, laden with slapstick, that will never go out of style.
The politics are somewhat universal, fighting for the rights of workers, and lay persons. Fighting against authoritarian government. The motivations of the Tramp are easy to understand, and root for.
What continues to stand out through the film, and reach audiences today, is the slapstick situational comedy. It doesn't get out-dated, because it's always funny. This is generally considered the last silent film ever made, and it was a worthwhile finale to an incredible art form.
This is a funny film, and it will be able to find an audience for generations to come. This writer would highly recommend this golden age masterwork.
MY IMDb RATING: 8 out of 10