Monday, December 20, 2010

#136. Modern Times (1936)

DVD Synopsis: The Little Tramp punches in and wigs out inside a factory where gizmos like an employee-feeding machine may someday make the lunch hour last just 15 minutes. Bounced into the ranks of the unemployed, he teams with a street waif (Paulette Goddard) to pursue bliss and a paycheck, finding misadventures as a roller-skating night watchman, a singing waiter whose hilarious song is gibberish, a jailbird and more. In the end, as Tramp and waif walk arm and arm into an insecure future, we know they've found neither bliss nor a paycheck but, more importantly, each other.







Still regarded as one of Chaplin’s most beloved films, Modern Times is also among his funniest. In one scene, the Tramp, working tirelessly on an assembly line, is used as a guinea pig to test a new piece of machinery; a mechanical feeding machine, designed to keep hungry workers on the job by feeding them as they work. Things go smoothly at first, but before long the machine malfunctions, launching a hot bowl of soup onto the Tramp’s shirt. 

In conjuncture with the comedy, Modern Times also relies heavily on Chaplin’s incredible pantomime skills. Having obtained work as a night watchman for a department store, the Tramp invites the young lady he befriended (Paulette Goddard) to join him, and the two spend some quality time together in the store’s 4th floor toy department. While there, they decide to try out the store's roller skates. The Tramp, showing off his skating ability, fails to notice that he’s entered an area of the store where the guard rail has been removed, meaning one wrong turn will send him plummeting four stories to the ground below. The tension grows to an unbearable level when the Tramp, unaware of the danger, starts showing off for the girl by skating blindfolded, coming closer and closer to the edge each time around. Chaplin's precision is brilliant in this scene, making us laugh as he brings us to the edge of our seats.


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2 comments:

Klaus said...

I recently picked up the Criterion Blu Ray of Modern Times. Besides being my second favorite Chaplin film (behind City Lights), the Criterion disc is a real treat.

Dave Becker said...

Klaus: Thanks for the comment.

I have the Chaplin Collection release of Modern Times, and while it's a solid (2-disc) release, I do want to check out the Criterion version as well (because, well...it's Criterion!). And we agree on where Modern Times falls in Chaplin's filmography...it's a tremendous movie, but City Lights will always be his masterpiece.