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I've just stumbled across a bunch of Chaplin films. So I am watching them.

Casuistry (Chris P), Sunday, 14 November 2004 09:15 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

I guess this is a "S/D" thread, but I'm also trying to figure out if I even enjoy his work. What I'm enjoying right now is how alien it seems (and alien in a way that other period comedies -- Buster Keaton's, say -- don't feel). So I'm curious if there's just a rhythm or sensibility that I need to develop to really "get" it, or if I just flat out don't like his style.

Casuistry (Chris P), Sunday, 14 November 2004 09:16 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

I saw Modern Times in a theater a few months back. I had high expectations and left disappointed, and now I don't really remember a single scene in the movie that I thought was good, or what the point of the movie was, or anything. I remember a scene involving lunch and getting caught in a machine. That's about it.

Casuistry (Chris P), Sunday, 14 November 2004 09:18 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

I watched "The Bank" with my roommates the other night. It involved a lot of people bumping into other people repeatedly, often with mops. This was cute the first time but rapidly became tedious. Things picked up during the bank robbery, however, and -- should I worry about spoilers with a 90 year old movie? -- well, let's just say it used a now-familiar trope in what I thought was a fairly effective manner. I must not have been paying attention because I didn't see it coming.

Casuistry (Chris P), Sunday, 14 November 2004 09:20 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Tonight I watched "City Lights". I didn't realize, going into it, that this was supposed to be one of his masterworks -- it was only when, afterwards, I started googling around for other people's opinions that I found this out. I suppose it has the Chaplin archetypes at their archetypiest -- I know I rolled my eyes a bit during the opening credits that the characters were "Blind Girl" (or did it even say "Blind Flower Girl"?), "Her Grandmother", "A Millionaire", "A Prizefighter", etc. It felt a bit paint-by-numbers.

The opening scene was good, the boxing scene was fantastic, and the ending was very pretty but also (slight spoiler warning?) frustrating.

But from the comments about the film I googled up, people seem really into the characters. This seems odd, since the characters seem to be mostly one-dimensional shells -- the blind girl's personality amounts to "easy on the eyes". But the fans seem to think Chaplin's Tramp is "fundamentally decent", which I don't think is entirely supportable. But does it matter? I don't think you can hold this film up as a touching portrait of decency holding up under extreme conditions -- the characters are too thin, and too dependant on the humor to hold up to that. (Not that comedies can't have complex and realistic characters, but I don't think this one comes anywhere near that goal.)

Casuistry (Chris P), Sunday, 14 November 2004 09:34 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

I think if you haven't seen a ton of silent films, you probably haven't readjusted your expectations for what's a "3-dimensional character." The nature of the art form -- and I judge it to be a practically DIFFERENT one from talkies -- dictates a totally different approach. Even a stark silent drama like "Greed" employs *types*, sort of the cinema equivalents of Dickens characters.

That said, jeezus, City Lights isn't interesting compared to what? Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back? I don't care for Chaplin's late sentimentality (CL and Modern Times are the last 2 times he played the Tramp, unless Great Dictator counts -- and the schmaltz got even worse in his sound films), but the slapstick is consistently great, and as Stuart Klawans wrote in The Nation recently, he said as much about what it is to be poor as any great artist.

Try his Essanay and Mutual shorts to see the more knockabout style.

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Tuesday, 16 November 2004 16:53 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Oh yeah -- the template for Chaplin's features is very much Victorian melodrama. If that bugs you sufficiently, I guess he's not for you (and you'll really hate DW Griffith). Maybe that's what you find more "alien" than Keaton, but it was likely the dominant popular dramatic style that audiences in the teens and '20s knew their whole lives.

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Tuesday, 16 November 2004 17:08 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

twelve years pass...

circa1916, Saturday, 14 January 2017 17:20 (two years ago) Permalink

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