Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I watched Modern Times the other night, and fell in love with this film all over again.
Charlie Chaplin, master of dramedy before the term was even coined, really hits the mark with this, his last, and for the United States, the last silent movie. The movie centers on the very relevant issue of human beings being exploited as mere cogs in the machine of life. There is no need for me to do a full review of the film; there are hundreds of reviews available online already. I will merely share some favorite images and comment on them.

The factory sees the humans as mere extensions of the gears and conveyors that make whatever product it is they are making. As you can see here, the human is barely visible against the enormity of the machine:
Instead of a conveyor and machine parts, we now have cubicles and computers to chain us to work. I am happy though that we no longer have to work in dirty tank tops...those guys look nasty.

Bathroom breaks are monitored via web cams, a mere fantasy back in 1936, but quite a reality today:
Then there is "The Bellows Feeding Machine"...made so the worker never has to put down his tools and stop working to eat.
I often sit in my cubicle and eat as I work. Good lord, is this the next step?

Of course, you realize early on that the Tramp is going to snap. And he does, wonderfully, which only gets him fired and send to a sanatorium for a few weeks.
As if these guys needed more dirt on them!
When he is released from the hospital, he attempts to find work, but of course, he can't keep a job (it's the depression era after all) and after picking up a flag that fell off of a truck, he is mistaken as a "communist agitator" and arrested again:
In jail, he deals with a needlepoint thug, accidentally ingests cocaine and, while high, stops a prison break. This makes him a hero of course, and a candidate for early release.
Before he is thrust back out into the world of depression and hopelessness, there is a great scene where he deals with "indigestion noises" and a small dog:

Back outside, he finally meets "THE GIRL" and who wouldn't fall for a dirty street waif that looks like this:
The Girl has been living on the streets since running from the Law after she was orphaned. If I am ever arrested, I want a light like that one me, and my hair to look good messy, too.
Do I even need to mention the significance of the banana??

In a very "Les Miz" moment, the Tramp attempts to take the fall for the Girl stealing bread, but this bitch on the street keeps insisting it was the Girl, so in short order...she is arrested, the Tramp runs up a huge restaurant bill in order to get arrested, they meet again in the "paddy wagon", the wagon is involved in an accident and dumps everyone out, and they run for it. They end up resting on a side street and fantasize about having a job, food and a home:

Apparently, the fantasy homes back then had very high ceilings.

This fantasizing is enough to get the Tramp off his ass and looking for work again. He ends up working for a department store as a night watchman, which leads to a great scene where he roller skates blindfolded (showing off for the Girl) and doesn't realize the floor ends.
The Girl waits to be let in the store after hours.
The Girl puts on roller skates as well, and I only hope I can look that good if I ever end up homeless and in rags!
It's also a great place for the Girl to crash while he works...she revels in sleeping in the department store furs, in their bed, in the furniture department, while he guards the store. On roller skates.
But, as we know by now, the Tramp can't keep a job for long...his old (now unemployed) factory friends show up to rob the place and they get him drunk, and he ends up sleeping on a fabrics table...and a woman pulls him, ass up, from a pile of fabrics the next morning. Of course this means jail again...which apparently was the answer for any offence back then!

But look who is waiting for him when he is released!
While he was lounging around in jail, The Girl found them a "swell" place to live, along some channel, on the outskirts of the factory:
This reminds me of my first apartment, but I digress. The factories re-open, and the Tramp is put to work fixing the gears that have been laying idle.
But not for long. The workers go on strike and the factory is closed...again. Everyone is told to leave, the cops start tossing the strikers, the Tramp gets caught up in the fray and guessed it...back to jail.

When he gets out this time, The Girl is actually wearing a full outfit and has a job for him...see she has been dancing at a pier restaurant and if he can sing and wait table, he's got the job:

Here is The Girl convincing The Boss that The Tramp can indeed sing and wait table. Note the dubious look on the Tramp's face.
The Tramp is so inept that the Girl must write the song lyrics on his cuffs so he can look at them while singing. He runs out, starts flinging his arms about, loses the cuffs, and has to make up words as he sings. This is where Chaplin's genius comes into play. The song is in a made up nonsensical language, but the gestures actually make the song come to life. This scene is also notable as the first time the Tramp has been heard on film, so it works wonderfully.

So...all is going well, he is a hit and then The Girl has her turn:
She is so beautiful and eye catching that she catches the eye of two detectives who just happen to be dining there, and just happen to have a wanted picture of her. WANTED??? For what? According to the lovely wanted warrant, it's for vagrancy. How they managed to get that photo of her is what I want to know!
Here is the Law trying to take the Girl in. The Tramp will have none of it, and they barely escape. Of course, you realize this means no more job and now they have to leave town as well.
Obviously sick of this crap, the Girl begins to break down. I would too. However, the Tramp tells her to buck up and smile. He tells her they will get along somehow, somewhere and they get back up and start walking off into the road ahead:
Fade out to Chaplin's wonderful song "Smile".

What are you waiting for? This movie is available on Amazon.


The Swamp Fox said...

This looks like an actual movie review, not an endless stream of mindless crap, like some. Maybe someday...

Anonymous said...

Bravo! Bravo for a great review of sort for a timeless movie. If you coud have postd the actual with Chaplin signing that riculously funny song, that would have been a GREAT touch...

JustMe said...

I wanted to load some video from the film, but every time I tried, it failed and "x"d out...I will continue to experiment there and figure it out!