This is a more thoroughly entertaining film than “City Lights”, but it doesn’t have the same emotional impact. It is more overtly political than any of his other silent films, offering a satirical critique of the mechanization of labor and the dehumanization of the factory environment. The film offers some fantastic set pieces: the machine that “feeds” the employees to save time, with the Tramp as the obvious test subject; the ever-accelerating assembly line that leaves the Tramp in a nervous breakdown; both Chaplin and his boss getting stuck in the cogs of the huge machines, etc. One of my personal favorite moments was when Chaplin accidentally douses his food with cocaine, thinking it’s salt. I was amazed that something so daring could have gotten by the prohibition-era censors. This was very subversive stuff.
The film is also unique in that he has a female sidekick “trampette” for the majority of the film. It also features Chaplin’s first speaking part, toward the end of the film when he performs a song and dance routine. It’s the only ending I know of where he walks off into the fadeout accompanied by a lady. You should see it. You will feel good about it, I promise
The following goes for all Chaplin films that will appear here. I am ashamed that it took me as long as it did to begin watching his films and appreciate him as an artist. The first movies of his that I viewed, I literally sat slack-jawed as I watched. Nothing I had seen of modern entertainers prepared me for the virtuosity of this one man. Nothing we have nowadays even approaches the level of talent that he (and IMO to a lesser extent Buster Keaton) displayed. He was an artist in the true sense of the word. Just think: the amount of talent necessary to write, direct, choreograph, invent, compose music for, and act in all of these productions staggers the imagination. Just look at the list in that last sentence. HE DID ALL OF THOSE THINGS BY HIMSELF, FOR LIKE 30 YEARS, WITH MORE THAN 20 MOVIES! I consider him on the same level as Shakespeare, Mozart and Dante for what he has done with the arts. Who living even approaches the shadow that Chaplin cast in terms of all-around entertainment value? I defy you to name even one person.
It pisses me off that he’s not better appreciated nowadays.
18 March 2010