Modern Times

It starts with an overhead shot of sheep, cuts to the throngs coming out of a subway station. Was Chaplin a Surrealist, or just a realist? His version of modern times looks forward in equal measure to Jacques Tati and 1984. This “silent” is full of modern sounds, heard over loudspeakers and big corporate television screens (not to mention the Tramp's outburst of French-inspired gibberish). Charlie the ever-elegant Tramp is an industrial swashbuckler with an oilcan for a sword, but he's begun taking on the characteristics of factory machines, obsessively twisting buttons no matter where they are. We can't have this antisocial behavior, can we? Charlie's eventually arrested as a Communist. Paulette Goddard as a starving gamine becomes his comrade in loving arms against an overmechanized world. Only Chaplin could both satirize their kitschy dreams and have them walk off into the sunset in the most poignant Depression image ever faked.

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