Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Gold Rush. A


Pretty much all my life I've had this fervor, almost vehement enthusiasm for stories about mining for gold or drilling for oil. As a youngster I devoured The Painted Hills (really pathetic, but I still love it) and liked Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, because maybe the dwarves mine for gold. There's one other title that I was really fond of, but it evades me at the moment. In the present day I have a fondness for Giant,, while some of my favorite movies are Treasure on the Sierra Madre and There Will Be Blood. There's no real explanation why I'm drawn to movies about oil and especially gold. I have no desire to be involved in the the process of discovering either (though I've admittedly had the wild fantasy of climbing up a cliff and chipping away at rock for some gold). The most rational answer I can give is that the quest for gold and oil makes for a great exploration of just how desperate man can be for material wealth. The process can be fascinating to watch unfold, as exemplified so comprehensively in There Will be Blood. Gold and oil (especially gold) can lead a human being into a slow descent to the most bitter realities of life. I don't know, I guess there's something interesting about that. So naturally, I was inclined towards The Gold Rush merely by the appeal of the title. As it turns out the movie really is gold, maybe even better than City Lights. It's about a lot of things, not just gold. The quest for gold sort of acts as a portage to get to more substantial ideas. The film, though a comedy and romance, pretty much says everything there is to say about the problems of capitalism. It doesn't offer advice or solutions, but merely presents the facts and how they can lead to both terrible and joyful ends. City Lights is generally considered a better movie than The Gold Rush, but while I readily acknowledge the overall quality of the former may be greater, I found myself leaning towards the latter by the end. Was it because Chaplin achieved a certain greatness in The Gold Rush that wasn't present in City Lights? Not at all. So what's the answer? Personal appeal. And in this case, it's gold.

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