87 Min. | Comedy – Drama – Family | February 1936
IMDB Rating: 8.6
Director: Charles Chaplin
Staring: Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Henry Bergman
Modern Times Review: Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times (1936) is the final film to feature the great actor/director/writer’s most easily recognizable incarnation: The Tramp. Here is a character that is so ingrained in the collective conscious of modern film audiences that many recognize him despite the fact that they have not seen a single Chaplin film. Indeed, several iconographic studies have labeled The Tramp as the single most identifiable fictional image in history. Still, the film that perhaps most influenced the creation and thematic realization of Modern Times was not even a silent one.
Modern Times is not an entirely silent film, but if you look closely, every character with dialogue is being mocked. Even when The Tramp opens his mouth, the words are nonsensical, defying the burgeoning convention that dialogue is mandatory for substance, entertainment, and quality. Despite the film’s status as one of the greatest comedies of all-time, it is hard to ignore the political component. In his movies, Chaplin often exhibited a great mistrust for authority and progress, as often embodied through the social elite, the police, and wealthy entrepreneurs. The irony of the film’s title, then, is two-fold. It connects with Chaplin’s own bitter feelings regarding his moribund art form, but also refers to the plight of the working classes during the Great Depression. The world was changing fast, and Chaplin foresaw that many of these changes were far from beneficial.
As Chaplin so skillfully shows, however, our modern times make this lifestyle a faded dream, lost among the sheep-like herds of men and women scurrying through a modern metropolis that only Fritz Lang could make seem darker and more devoid of true humanity. Still, the final image of Modern Times refuses to let the film end on an exclusively tragic note and demonstrates that the individual is still alive and may yet find his way in an ever-changing world. Overall, Modern Times is a wondeful film.
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