Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Semi-silent movie of the week:

I've known about Charlie Chaplin for most of my life. I've seen lots of little film clips showing him doing his antics - I think most people have. It's funny stuff. He's had a career spanning from 1914 to 1967, but I've never watched any of his movies, until this past weekend. Now I wish that maybe I'd have watched them sooner - but I'm glad that there are still great discoveries to be made after all these years.

I loved this movie - it's very very very funny!

Filmed in 1936, this was supposed to be Chaplin's first talkie. After filming a few scenes, he reportedly changed his mind. This film is NOT a talkie, but it's also not a silent movie. Instead, it uses sound in a unique (for the time) way. The main characters don't speak, but some of the minor ones do. Also, there are sound effects - especially those caused by symbols of technology (machines, radios, etc.). With the use of just a handful of title cards, facial expressions, and lip reading - you never have any problem understanding out what's going on.

This is Chaplin's final film that featured his signature character, The Little Tramp. He wrote and directed the film, as well as composed the music. The story is a satire on technology and the future. Years later, because of its political sentiments, the House Un-American Activities Committee was convinced that Charlie Chaplin was a communist. Political statements were hard to avoid, especially during the great depression, Despite that, I found it fascinating to see the technology predictions being made in the film. Things like wall-sized flat panel video screens, and fast-food machines - this film was way ahead of its time.

After all these years, this film is still held in high regard.

Now, I can guess what you're thinking. "This is a silent movie - I can't be bothered." "I'd rather watch a modern movie, 'cause they're better - like: The Escape Claus and Saw III and Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector." Maybe you're right.

"Besides, it's not a talkie - so they're like mimes - right? Nobody likes mimes, right?" No, they're not like mimes - but all this mime bashing is getting a little old, don't you think? In order to set this whole mime thing right, I present a brief -

Recent History of Mimes.

  • Early 20th century: Mimes are movie stars, or I should say - movie stars are mimes. Mimes are cool. Mime colleges get so many applications that they have to turn people away disappointed.
  • Talkie movies arrive: Mimes no longer needed. Rejected mime college applicants lead sour-grapes anti-mime movement. Most silent movie stars lose careers. Mimes are attacked on the street.
  • 1950's: Marcel Marceau makes mimes cool again. Mimes can do no wrong during the 50's and 60's. A mime ran for president in the U.S. in the late 60's but was unable to give campaign speech.
  • Mid-1970's: Glut of mimes spurs new wave of anti-mime-ism. Mimes are mocked in the media and are physically attacked on the street. Mimes are afraid to appear in public and move into the closet. They secretly assemble in large groups underground to plan next comeback, scheduled for late 1990's.
  • Late 1990's - present: Blue Man Group makes mimes cool again. Current strategy is to only show in theaters and make public pay to see them. This help to prevent premature public burnout. As insurance, BMG mimes wear blue makeup, hiding real identity to hedge against future inevitable mime uncoolness.

Current mime status: cool

So, quickly, quickly! Go out and rent Charlie Chaplin's MODERN TIMES, while it's still cool.


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