Thursday, September 2, 2010

Modern Times (1936)

First, lets get this out of the way first: this is the 200th post on The Entertainment Junkie blog! Hooray!
I apologize for all The Simpsons pictures lately. I'm in that kind of mood, I guess.
Anyways, on to the review portion. Modern Times has always been considered a comedy classic, especially in the slapstick genre that Charlie Chaplin (who wrote, directed, and starred in the film) had found international celebrity with. There are plenty of comedians and comic directors/writers who cite the film as an inspiration. But how does it hold up today?
Incredibly well, actually. The film's narrative is episodic, and the situations that the Little Tramp finds himself in become increasingly absurd as the film progresses, but Chaplin's not really interested in telling a linear story here. Instead, he finds great comedic riches in everyday life in Depression-addled America. We seem him as a factory worker, a prison inmate, a working husband, a night watchman, a waiter, a shipbuilder, and more over the course of 87 minutes. Through it all, Chaplin presents a satirical take on labor unions, factory work, modern technology, drugs, Communist/socialist movements (to which Chaplin was famously sympathetic towards), domestic life, unemployment, prison life, and more. That's a lot of social commentary for a slapstick film, but this is the hallmark of a Chaplin movie. And in today's economic times (though not nearly as bad as they were during the Great Depression), the movie can again speak directly to audiences.
Of course, by the time this film was released cinematic times were changing. Its a silent film released in the age of sound, and its a testament to Chaplin's enduring popularity during the 1930s that the film succeeded. But the film's title couldn't be better: no matter what modern times you're in, this film has relevance. Its the perfect example of a film that is both timely and timeless.
This is my favorite scene in the film. Chaplin is a gifted physical comedian, and he knows how to draw big laughs just from a look or a walk. The film's other notable performer, though, is Paulette Goddard, who plays the young girl the Little Tramp falls for. She's a radiant, innocent beauty, and funny too. Comic inguenes: they just don't make them like they used to.


The Mad Hatter said...

Congrats on 200! (I've seen a lot of blogs quit before fifty)

And you couldn't have chosen a better film to discuss for your bicentennial entry. It's truly amazing to see how well all of Chaplin's films have aged...I mean, I don't know about you, but there are a lot of days where I myself feel like I am sliding through the gears of "The Machine".

Now, I mjst remember to add the upcoming Criterion dvd of this film to my Christmas list!

Jason H. said...

There's a Criterion DVD of this on the way?


Must. Have. Now.

And thanks!

Simon said...

Never apoligize for the Simpsons, sir.

Modern Times is lovely, but The Great Dictator will always have my heart.

Jason H. said...

Oh, The Great Dictator. I can't really decide on a single favorite Chaplin film; they're all so good!