Sunday, October 17, 2010

Modern Times. B+

Pauline Kael called Modern Times one of Chaplin's most lighthearted films. This sounds like a compliment, but it's actually a bit degrading, since the best of Chaplin is much more than just whimsical entertainment. If Chaplin did not infuse his greatest movies with insights and a deep understanding of the human heart, they would appear much like Modern Times does. Entertaining and funny, but not much more. The movie follows the adventures of the Tramp, from his frustrations in a factory, his stint in a jail, to his job as a waiter and ultimate union with a homeless girl struggling to survive on her own. The movie contains some classic Chaplin slapstick, and while they stand out because they're signature Chaplin, they don't live up to his most famous sequences. It seemed like he had a shortage of ideas, which isn't a huge surprise since the movie came out in 1936, after most of his great movies had been made. Though Modern Times lacks emotional depth and instills an almost constant sense of humor, it's not all fun and games. The movie takes its title seriously and shows us both the deficiency of the great depression as well as the struggle to maintain a sense of tradition amidst an ever-changing, industrialized world. Ultimately, the movie provokes a few serious thoughts, but mostly treats its situation light-heartedly, which isn't a problem, but not very lasting in its impact.

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