The Circus

We first encounter the Little Tramp hanging around the sideshow, stealing hot dogs from a baby. After a chase through a mirror-maze and a stint mimicking an automaton to elude the police, the onlooker finds himself engulfed in the show. The hapless Tramp becomes an accidental clown, the hit of the circus-but only when he isn't trying to be funny. While self-reflexively analyzing the nature of comedy, The Circus produces plenty of it, climaxing with our hero's nightmarish debut on the high wire, where he not only loses his pants but is besieged by biting monkeys. The film is less widely known than some of Chaplin's other features, possibly because it emphasizes slapstick over sentiment. Yet the final shot is as poignant as almost anything in Chaplin's work, the classic lone figure of the Tramp evoking the melancholy that haunts the close of any show.

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