“Buck up! Never say die – we’ll get along!”
Revisiting the character who made him famous, this time Chaplin’s ‘The Little Tramp’ is faced with the mounting challenges of the industrial age and the great depression. Struggling to balance his clumsiness with the demands of production line factory work, the tramp bounces between unemployment and short stints in prison. At the same time, a beautiful young girl (Paulette Goddard) finds herself orphaned and hungry on the streets after the untimely death of her single parent father. Whilst stealing a loaf of bread, the gamin girl quite literally bumps into the tramp who tries his best to help her escape. The two soon join forces and attempt to build a life and earn an honest living in the most difficult of times.Although this is not my favourite Charlie Chaplin film (I’m unlikely to watch one I enjoy more than The Great Dictator), I’m always blown away by sheer brilliance of his films. The man was a true artist. It really says something when you can watch a film almost 77 years after it was made, back in the very early days of cinema, and still be amazed by the production value. I couldn’t help but marvel at everything about this film. The acting is beautiful (as is Paulette Goddard), the comedy is pure genius (as we’d expect from Chaplin), the set pieces are incredible, and the special effects, considering their age, are fantastic. This film is a far better directional effort than a lot of the straight to DVD tripe which gets churned out by modern directors. I think it’s important for modern directors to see what can be accomplished when you pour heart and soul into making movies; as Chaplin always did.
It should also be noted here that in 1936, the talking pictures or ‘talkies’ were very much in full swing, and yet Modern Times remains almost completely silent. A bold move for a director who knew that audiences of the time were craving bigger and better things, and would naturally want to see talking pictures. When he started production in 1934, Chaplin did originally intended this film to feature dialogue but later feared that his tramp character would be ruined for audiences if they were to hear him speak; not to mention the worry of isolating his international audience in the process. This would be the last official appearance of his little tramp character as afterward all films made by Chaplin were talkies. A similar character, the Jewish barber, can be seen in ‘The Great Dictator’, but Chaplin always insisted he was not the tramp.
This film is another iconic gem from a timeless director.