M.A.S.H.

I knew MASH purely as a television series for a long time. My father is one of those people who love to sit and watch reruns of old television shows all day after his long day of work. He probably watched every episode of MASH something like twenty times. That theme song is as familiar to me as any other music from my childhood. My father would whistle it when he was in the shower from time to time. It wasn’t until I was getting more into film and I heard about this auteur, Altman, that I noticed a film was the original inspiration  for the television series. I asked my dad if he had seen the movie and he griped “That piece of shit?” So for the longest time when I thought of MASH, the film, I thought of that crumpled face my father always makes when he disapproves of something and his dismissal.

While I can see the necessity for this film at the time it was made and I enjoyed quite a bit of it, I feel like I would have had a completely different reaction to it if I had seen it in the seventies and without the knowledge that it became a television series. Having seen several anti-war films that are comedic in nature, I find what this film says about the nature of war to be wickedly tame. What these surgeons do day in and day out is nerve-racking and horrible, but it is nothing compared to actually seeing the day-to-day action.  What do regular soldiers do stay calm and sane? Wouldn’t that be a more interesting story than a bunch of privileged surgeons?

The buddy relationship between Hawkeye and Trapper John was quite sweet. You could tell off-screen that Gould and Sutherland were great friends. They had an insular language, both spoken and hinted at through gestures, that made their childish pranks and misogyny more appealing to me. Although I did have a problem with the assumed misogyny. Seeing women nurses as just conquests instead of actual characters and pitting everyone against the straight-laced nurse captain is just a little irksome. I wouldn’t have been so annoyed, if they would have involved a female in one of the plots other than being the one to sexually cure someone. The only nurse that is named is the evil nurse captain, Hot Lips O’Houlihan. She is seen as staunch and idiotic. It seems like Altman was working through some stuff. He seemed to cure even the most ridiculous male character of his annoying traits, but that woman was evil or stupid throughout the whole film.

I also thought the film was a little too long. Did we really need that sequence where they played football? It does illustrate the length that anyone would go to in order to divert his eye from the horrible conflict, but he has three sequences that illustrate that just as easily. It seems by the end that Altman was beating us over the head with his themes. Look war is bad and the people in it are willing to do anything in order to stay sane, but must that be your only driving force for every goddamn scene? If we had seen Hawkeye go home after their adventure in Japan then I would have been satisfied.

Although I had problems with the film, like I do with most of Altman’s work, I did like it. It was an enjoyable two hours but in the end I kind of think the television series accomplished what Altman set out to do and more. It showed the absurdities of war, the lengths people go to in order to stay sane, but above all it developed the characters in ways that were more fascinating than Altman did. I’m sorry Altman, but you were wrong for condemning the series. You should instead take it as a compliment.

 

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Love on the Run

Love on the Run is the last installment of the Antoine Doinel saga. We have seen Antoine as a young rebellious youth, an awkward teen on his own and a husband and lover always dissatisfied with what he has. At the end of  Bed and Board, Antoine and his wife are on good terms and they seem to love each other more now than they did before. However at the start of Love on the Run, we see Antoine in the bed of a very different girl. He acts differently around this woman than he seemed to around the two other women we have seen him with in previous films. He seems to really like her, but also seems to be insecure about it. This is out of the ordinary for Antoine. He always seems to be aware of the people he loves and pursues them with a need that is vital to his life. This out of the ordinary scene starts a film that is odd in comparison to the other Doinel features. Not in a good way.

Known as the lesser of all the films in this trilogy, Love on the Run leans on recycled material from past films in Truffaut’s filmography. Flashbacks litter the film to an annoying degree. If we are watching this film, then we know where Antoine comes from, what mistakes he has made in the past and how he met his previous lovers. We don’t necessarily need reminding of it. The worst flashback is the scene in Day for Night where Leaud’s character is arguing with his girlfriend but is not Antoine. This girlfriend comes back in this film and becomes the lover that pulls apart his marriage for the last time which is the reason for the scene to be put in the film, but it doesn’t make for a good reason. In fact at one point of the film, Leaud responds to a question proposed by a person who is off camera. It is something about coming back to the set, but in this film he is not an actor, he is a real person that is in a vacation home with his wife and this girl. So Truffaut has the wife call out to him, but his answer makes no sense and breaks up the discourse in a way that is jarring. For some reason, Truffaut goes back to the well of cutting his previous films into this one each time resulting in worse and worse continuity problems. It gets to a point that I imagine Truffaut is shouting to the viewer “hey hey you do you remember I made this film? and this film? and this one? Weren’t they better than this piece of shit I am forcing you to watch now?”

My other major problem with the film is the theme of Antoine actually falling in love with the woman at the beginning. We have seen him again and again fall in love with women only to fall right back out of love with them. What makes this woman different? Why are we supposed to believe that this one is going to stick? The film seems to answer these questions by saying it is because he found a ripped up picture of her on the floor of a phone booth and then stalked her! I think Truffaut has a fascination with stalking. For the last three films in a row that I have watched of his, he has featured stalking very prominently. I would not be surprised to learn that Truffaut himself was a stalker. Truffaut romanticized stalking and makes it a thing a “normal” person would do. Because Antoine did not stalk his other girlfriends so obviously then he was not that in love with them.

Antoine Doinel is an interesting character that had a lot of potential to grow as a human and experience things that everyone has to deal with. I feel like in this film his potential was wasted. It seemed the real meat of the film was told in glimpses and boring remembrances. I would have liked to see the eventual break in his relationship with his wife instead of just watching it in snippets. I would have liked for not every major character to come back and for him to not visit his mother’s grave. It was unneeded sappyness. We all know that he was damaged by his youth and his neglectful mother, we don’t need it spelled out for us in the form of his mother’s boyfriend coming into his life and showing him her gravestone. I think Antoine Doinel needed a better send off. That is all.

The Believer

Judaism had a long history of persecution. I could sit here and name them all, but I am sure you are just as aware of the many atrocities that beset the Jewish population as I am. But all of these waves of persecution are nothing compared to the psychological damage individual Jews do to themselves. If this statement baffles you, I would suggest you listen to a couple of episodes of Marc Maron’s WTF podcast or sit down and read the Torah or seek out a Jewish person to talk to. The Jewish religion invites thought, contradiction, and knowledge but what comes with these ideals is self-doubt. A beautiful example of this self-doubt taken to a wild extreme is this film, the Believer. About a Jewish Neo-Nazi, this film illustrates the weird ways the Jewish religion can manifest in someone’s life.

Ryan Gosling plays this young man who is at war with himself. Stuck in a city that seems overwhelmed with wimps, he longs to not be one of them. He reads Mein Kampf and other works and identifies with the ideals of fascism. But what is intrinsic to fascism at least in the Hitler interpretation is the hatred and killing of Jews. He soaks up this knowledge and becomes a very articulate advocate for the genocide of his own people. He joins an underground movement of Fascists and he is trained on combat. However he knows that he cannot reconcile his past with his present.

The performance is put forth by Ryan is what makes this film. An angry skinhead who wants nothing more than to kill his own people would be hard for anyone to play let alone someone who is just starting out in the acting world like Ryan was. This is his second film that he was ever in and yet he seems to have knocked it out of the park. Every gesture, every grimace, every spitting of the word Jew out of his mouth wreaks of this character. He isn’t the sensitive quiet man in The Notebook or the jock from Remember the Titans. He is something else here. He is intelligent, abrasive, angry, and conflicted. He is shades of grey instead of black and white. He shows the promise that will later come to fruition in films that are more high-profile like Drive or Half Nelson.

I liked this film because it did not just venerate Judaism as the best religion to be a part of like most films who incorporate this subject matter does. Through conversation with other Jews and with other Fascists, you learn the shortfalls of both religions. The Jewish people should not be left off the hook because of the atrocities that they have suffered in the past. Just because their people were murdered in the Holucaust does not give them the right to force Palestinians out of their homeland and into shanty town like settlements. At the same time just because they have strange rituals that don’t make sense from an outsider perspective or that they seem to run everything (a myth!) in the government and financial worlds, doesn’t mean that we should hate them vehemently.

There are several problems that I had with the structure of the film. For instance the reliance on flashbacks is particularly grating. The director continues to insert shots from a time in this character’s past where he confronts his rabbi. The scene is played again and again throughout the film to the point of nauseum. The audience understands that he at one time confronted and then left his religion. We don’t need it spelled out to us every time he is alone in his room. Once is enough. Also the example of the Nazi impaling a young Jewish boy in front of his father is used too much and in horrible black and white coloring. I knew from the first shot that all they did was take color footage and put a black and white filter over those scenes. It looks awful. If you wanted it in black and white then shoot it in black and white. Filters never look good. With this story and the constant flashback to the classroom where he confronts his rabbi, the last third is eaten up by these flashbacks which slows down the action and makes it annoying to watch. I understand that he is conflicted, that he is truly Jewish and will always be Jewish and that he can’t bring himself to kill other Jews. I understood that from the first moment you showed me this footage. You do not need to show to me again and again and again. It is too much.

Despite the problems I ranted about above, I still think this film is an interesting experiment. The performance is strong enough to penetrate even the worst cinematography and the subject matter is strong enough to sustain the repeat in narrative. I would recommend this film to anyone who enjoys seeing good acting but not to anyone who values cinematography.

Overnight

Overnight is about an evil genius. An evil genius as I define it is someone who is so obsessed over their creation that they disregard everything else in their life. Dr. Frankenstein is a great example of an evil genius. An evil genius is innately gifted but works so singly mindedly at this gift in order to create something so far beyond that anyone has ever seen that he destroys all of his opportunities and relationships with other people. Troy Duffy is the perfect example of an evil genius.

During Miramax’s height in the mid nineties, Harvey Weinstein could do no wrong. He paid off the right people, campaigned ceaselessly for nominations, dumped tons of money into promotion and snatched up original property with a vengeance that was unheard of. He basically gave off the vibe that he could make anything into a hit. One day he stumbled upon a bar in Boston that was bartended by a very charismatic person, Troy Duffy. Troy pitched him his idea for Boondock Saints and Mr. Weinstein agreed not only to buy the property, but he would also buy the bar that Mr. Duffy was currently working in so that he would have something to fall back on. He was going to be writing, directing, scoring, casting and producing this original property. He was big. He shot to the top of the who’s who list in Hollywood. Celebrities started to hang out at the bar he now “owned” and he talked to him all night and day about his plans. He employed his friends to become managers and documentarians. Forced them to give up their day jobs, moved them to Hollywood, and started the process of making a huge hit. Of course somewhere along the way everything started to fall apart. This documentary is the sketch of how it slowly started to fall apart.

Troy seems to do nothing throughout the film except yell at people either in person or on the phone and drink. There are no shots of him working on the script, meeting with the actors, or practicing the music that was to score the film. It is all him philosophizing about his sudden stardom and his sudden downfall. He thinks only of himself although he puts on this front that he cares about the people around him. He sees them only as hangers-on that need to be shaken off at the first given opportunity and not as collaborators which is what they should be. They work hard for his approval and without any financial backing what so ever. Several times during the process, the documentarian comes from behind the camera and expresses his frustration with having to be kicked out of his apartment, going without food, and putting in long hours only to be spit on by Troy. When the band lands a major label deal, the documentarians who are also the managers of the band receive nothing of the signing bonus. Troy tells them quite directly that they deserve nothing from the deal and that he is the king and they are merely his minions. He may have gotten away with this from his friends, but this same attitude only achieved him being dropped by Harvey Weinstein and black balled from the industry. Although Troy Duffy did eventually end up making the film and releasing it, he received nothing from it after it became a cult hit because he did not own the home video rights to it.

This is an amazing example of what not to do in Hollywood. You do not want to piss off the most powerful man in the industry, you do not want to alienate your friends from you, you do not want to spend most of your time drinking and you probably want to save up some of the signing bonus money you receive or you will end up in construction just like the members of the band did. This film serves as a great cautionary tale as well as a glimpse in the behind scenes of one of the most successful cult hits in the past two decades. Only a man who screwed up could make such an over the top action flick as that.

The Man Who Loved Women

It is hard sometimes to divorce myself and my politics from the politics or the film I am watching. I try my hardest to not bring any preconceptions to a film and I want to like every film I watch, but sometimes it just isn’t possible. I have written before on Truffaut’s treatment of women in his films and I will not rehash what I have said here on this post, but I just want to say that I really wanted to like this film.

I think my main problem with the film is the man is so incredibly purvey and nonchalant about everything. The film is based around a man who loves women basically. He finds one feature on a woman in passing and can’t rest until he has her. For instance she sees a woman in a shop with beautiful legs. He writes down her license plate, but it turns out to be a rental car. He goes to the rental agency and a beautiful secretary sympathizes with his made up situation and gives him information that could get her fired. He then tracks this woman down to the country and finds her cousin instead. Apparently the cousin let her use her license to get a rental car for a few days until she returned to Montreal. Although disappointed he goes back to the rental agency and beds the secretary. Along the way every woman he encounters is incredibly indulgent to this sweet talking man and can’t wait to hop in bed with him. It baffles me how he can just stalk a woman to her apartment the whole time knowing she has at least a boyfriend if not a husband, proposition her for sex and not get a slap on the face. In fact in this instance it becomes one of the longish affairs he writes about in his book that results in her shooting her husband and her going to jail for a while. He has long monologues about the legs of women and flowy skirts. At one point in the film he contracts gonorrhea and the doctor warns him that he must tell every partner he has been with in the last couple of weeks. He writes this off as too much work and goes on with his philandreing ways.

Alright I think I am being too harsh. My last entry in the Truffaut filmography I reviewed a film that involved a woman who was essentially a stalker. But I guess my problem with this film is the same that I had with Stolen Kisses. He treats his male figures like they are reverential figures who need to be exhalted at every turn. Every woman wants to him. For instance towards the end of the film he finishes his novel and submits it to a publisher. Every person rejects it except for the only woman in the room. She finds it to be intriguing and she becomes the sole champion of this tell all memoir. But the whole time there is the hint that she only accepts his book as a way to sleep with him which spoiler she does. It is frustrating to have no consequences for this type of man. Maybe the untimely death seems like a punishment, but it is nothing compared to the torture one of his other protagonists goes through, Adele. She is banished to a life of pining for a man who will want her but he is mourned by legions of attractive women and he dies in a heroic fashion.

I don’t hate this character, although I didn’t particularly like him. The actor goes thorough most of his scenes with a sigh of indifference. He doesn’t seem to care if he shows any emotions even when he finds the one woman who “got away.” There is always one, isn’t there? I just really didn’t like this film. But I tried. I tried to set aside my bad experiences with watching charismatic men sleep with a bunch of different women only to have a soft side and been hurt himself (think Alfie, the remake… I didn’t see the original) but I just could not. This film feels like so many others. and that is not what I want to say when I am watching a film by this great of a director. Maybe next time..

Black Dynamite

The blaxpoitation genre is a fascinating genre to explore. Born out of the need for black people to see their own race on-screen and a love for action films in the seventies, blaxpoitation films were filled with crazy premises, kung fu, jive talk, and sex. Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, Jackie Brown, Shaft, and various other gems emerged from this time and have gone on to influence many people currently working in the movie industry today. These were silly films that nonetheless said something about the current state of America at the time. This film is a loving tribute to the genre and at the same time a light jab at the ridiculous plots.

Black Dynamite is basically the most amazing fighter that has ever hit the streets of this town. He boink several girls at once, take down puny little Asian kung fu masters, take on the drug community to clean up the streets and still look damn sexy in his various pleather outfits. He decides to take revenge on the drug community because it robbed him of his younger brother, but the drug community goes beyond just his neighborhood. It goes to the very tippy top. He fights his way through each layer with wild car chases, his unique brand of kung fu, witty sayings and takedowns, and his animal magnaticism.

The plot doesn’t really matter here. All that matters is the Black Dynamite and the actor who played him. He sells the plot, the crazy setting, the outfits and the words with such a conviction it is hard to imagine why this man isn’t a bigger star. He moves through the scenes with an easiness and cockiness that makes the character so much better. My only issue with the acting would be the some of the supporting players. Some of the actors (who are mostly just comedians or adult film stars) seem to be laughing at how funny their lines are just before the camera rolls. They don’t sell the nonsense words they are selling so sometimes it isn’t as funny as it should be. Of course it is only a minor quibble because all that really matters is Black Dynamite, baby.

What I like about this film is how committed it is to making a truly authentic blaxpoitation film. At one point in the film there is a fight where two characters are supposed to be fighting each other and one actor takes it too far and actually slaps the other actor. He freaks out and there is a quick cut to revel a different person in the same role as the man who freaked out just a second before. If you look at Sweet Sweetback, you will see this all of the time. Due to severe budget constraints, the director could only get who was willing to be in a film for free and that means that he would have to replace an actor at a moment’s notice. This is just one example of Black Dynamite getting it right.

This film is hilarious. That is all that really needs to be said about it in the end. Good night!

Comedian

Jerry Seinfeld is the definition of a successful comedian. He started in New York City, featured, showcased, and headlined the most popular clubs and most lauded clubs there, was a regular on Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, and David Letterman, got a television deal for a series that was on one of the four majors and had complete creative control over, saw it become one of the most popular television series of all time, earned millions and then billions of dollars in syndication and is still held up as a genuinely funny guy throughout it all. So why did he have a documentary made about him struggling to get back into standup?

For someone who has tried it in the past and failed, I can tell you that stand up is very hard to pull off successfully. It takes years to build a truly funny act, feel comfortable with yourself on stage, and be able to make any money at it. So for most people who become stand ups they do it because they love it. They thrive on those laughs, work hours on their routine every day, and stay up into the wee hours of the morning performing anywhere they can get up. Jerry Seinfeld loves comedy and it shows at every moment in this film. When he is sitting with his comedian friends at a table working through bits and just talking about the hardships, when he is on stage bombing or forgetting the place he was at in his act or giving advice to Orny Adams, the other subject in the film, you can’t help but see his devotion to this art form. This is why he struggles to produce something new, why he goes through the headaches of having to go up after dancing bondage midgets or caring what he wears, it is all because he wants to be better comedian.

Orny Adams is a comic that is just starting out. He has been in New York City at the time and performing comedy full-time for about five years. He devotes hours upon hours watching himself on stage, taking notes, writing jokes, and getting up on stage for anywhere between five minutes and a half hour. However he doesn’t do these things because he loves comedy, but because he wants to be famous. He wants to be able to draw crowds in order to watch him spit his philosophy in life. He wants to have his own television series, make it on Letterman regularly and have a mansion in the sun. He considers himself one of the best comics around and is extremely cocky. He seeks advice from Seinfeld and other comics, but twists it so it validates his current thinking style. All of this doesn’t make him any less funny on stage.

Comedian is about the pursuit of fame and what to do with it once you have it. Seinfeld could have sat contented with his decade old material selling out theaters and arenas but he chose to experiment and write new material and with that comes anxiety. Orny Adams will probably be faced with a similar problem when he becomes famous. Will he stay the same or will he rest on his material that by the time he hits will be a decade long? Will he pull out that jewish joke folder again and again to pull from the same well? Let’s hope not.

 

Divorce Italian Style

About midway through Divorce Italian Style, Marcello Mastroianni’s character, Fefe, watches La Dolce Vita for the first time. Everyone around him sits in wonder of the film and the theater is packed, but he can’t wait to get out. Fefe is stuck not only in this crowded theater, but he is stuck in his town, in his marriage, in his debt, and in his half mansion. Just as he breaks through the theater and into the quiet uncrowded street, he eventually breaks out of his marriage and his situation, but not without some bumps along the way.

Fefe is an interesting man. An impoverished and idle aristocrat by birth, Fefe has nothing to occupy his time except for his obsession with his beautiful and frightfully young cousin. He watches her sleep in her room inbetween the slates in the bathroom window and he fantasizes. But he doesn’t just fantasize about her, but about all the different ways he can kill his current wife. Sporting a healthy mustache, his wife as seen as clinging, nervous, and ultimately too devoted to him. He is in other words extremely bored with her. She can’t help but insert herself into his life and it is easy to say that he hates her for it. She is as oppressive as the hot Scillian sun, turning off the fan every time she bursts into his private study, mixing hot, sugary coffee for him like he is two, and crooning his name again and again. It would drive even the most devoted husband nuts. So Fefe hatches a plan to become a public cuckold (a man who is cheated on by his wife very publicly) and then to murder his wife in a crime of passion. The only Italian version of divorce that was legalish at the time.

He plants the seeds, watches them bloom and develop as he imagines the ultimate deed, the trial, and his eventual release into his cousin’s arms. Everything drives him to the ending point and he is relentless in his pursuit, even when he doubts himself late at night while gazing into the mirror.

The director Pietro Germi cuts through societal issues and hypocrisies with his razor-sharp dialogue and his absurd situations. He asks the question about how can it be possible that divorce is seen as the worst mortal sin possible but killing a spouse after stumbling upon them cheating with another person is seen as totally justified and is sympathized with? He asks this question with every frame mocking the ancient aristocracy that officially accomplish nothing in life, the masses of people who uphold and place on high barons and baronesses even when they hold no power over them, and the need to uphold tradition at every turn. He answers the question at the very end (I won’t tell you the ending although it is a pretty awesome one) with the old axiom “Careful what you wish for, you just might get it.” If you wish for a smart comedy that mocks everything that was held dear in Italy at the time, and a chance to see Marcello Mastroianni’s comedy chops, then you just might get it with this film.

The Story of Adele H.

Truffaut likes troubled women. From Jeanne Moreau’s character in Jules and Jim to Catherine Deneuve in Mississippi Mermaid, Truffaut’s films are littered with sexually and mentally frustrated women. When I usually say this, I am deriding the male chauvinist pig director that portrays women only as crazy freaks. However I am not doing this here for one reason: although Truffaut likes his troubled women, he treats them with respect and empathy. I know that I lambasted Mississippi Mermaid and especially Catherine Deneuve’s character, but I think it was one misstep in a career full of right choices. This film could be seen from one perspective as just a period piece about one woman being misunderstood. We see that again and again in period films and it is a shallow place to go to. But I think that because Truffaut brings his respect and fascination with this character that he brought to a similar film, Wild Child, the film goes beyond just a woman being misunderstood and into why she is misunderstood and/or crazy.

The Story of Adele H. is based on the diaries of Victor Hugo’s youngest daughter. While living in exile with her father, Adele falls in love with a solider that sees her as just another conquest. He proposes marriage, but was never serious about it. However Adele is very serious and when the solider is re-stationed to Halifax, Nova Scotia, she follows him there. She entreats him again and again to love her and marry her, but he treats her like something he has just thrown on the burn pile. She goes slowly insane and starts to believe that her life and her diary is a part of a great romance that will live for ages. She writes everything down in a flowery code. Ream after ream she writes her thoughts on this romance and her need for human contact that she does not receive from this man. Meanwhile the man courts every rich young woman in town and takes advantage of Adele’s affection to get money out of her. Seeing her more and more as a burden (at one point she goes to the father of one of the women he is courting and tells him that she is pregnant with his baby and they have been engaged for some time), the solider is desperate to be relocated again. He gets the relocation, this time to Barbados, but there she is again, a forlorn crazy young woman wandering the marketplace in tattered clothing and a vacant look. She is taken into a hospital and nursed back to health only to be found out that this is Victor Hugo’s daughter.

The study of insanity is given a warm place to live in this film. Shot beautifully in the stark climate of Halifax, the film feels like a soft cushion for Adele to land on. The people that surround her are willing to help her situation and yet she is so blind to anyone, including the bookkeeper where she gets her paper at who is obviously in love with her, that isn’t this solider that she has idealized in her journals and in her mind that she pushes them all away. You see this all of the time with obsessive personalities and that could quite possibly be what Adele is suffering with but it is nice to see the situation not analyzed in a professional and cold way. Truffaut obviously cares very deeply for her and identifies with her. It is nice to see. I would recommend this film if you are interested in watching the fall of a woman into madness, but also if you wanted to see Truffaut evolve into a more sensitive director.

Modern Times

The Tramp and the man who played him is an iconic figure of the silent era. Bigger than Keaton, Pickford, Fairbanks, or any other silent figure I have written about with adulation, Chaplin made the silent era enjoyable for me. He made it bearable while trying my hardest to grasp the whole no sound thing (Don’t let anyone fool you, it is an adjustment) with his visual manipulations in order to get a laugh. These manipulations have inspired countless comedians and entertained thousands of people including children. Modern Times was technically made outside of the silent era where sound reigned supreme, but it is still at its core a part of his silent oeuvre.

My statement above may be seen as controversial to critics that write about this period by I stand by it for a number of reasons. The first is that the only sounds you hear are the exaggerated sounds of the machines and the other inanimate objects around him. The two characters never talk, but rather mime to each other. There are title cards that are used and a score that is intricate part of the action on-screen. You only hear the Tramp talk once and by talk I mean string a bunch of nonsensical words together to form a semblance of a song. But that song doesn’t take shape from his words, but his motions that accompany them. Most importantly Chaplin’s character, the Tramp, belongs most ardently to the silent era.

Modern Times shows the Tramp as a slave to the assembly line and the factory life. Overseen by a futurist boss, the assembly line is always  trying to push their workers and make them more productive. This results in the Tramp having muscle spasms so that he cannot stop tightening things even when he is not at the assembly line. This even includes a woman’s nipples. The boss is forever trying to improve things including trying out a new machine on the Tramp that would hypothetically eliminate lunch hour. This has disastrously funny results. Breaking out of the factory, the Tramp becomes an unwitting famous labor protester. For this he is jailed but kicked out the next day to find some work. Constantly on the hunt for a better situation but never able to keep anything for very long, he finds a she tramp running away from her fate of the orphanage. They set up a house for themselves and keep trying to find work to survive. Paulette Godard stars as this she tramp. She is a great foil for Chaplin and provides many comedic moments on her own. At the time Chaplin and Godard were married (it is unclear on whether or not they were officially married… this cost Godard a job later on in her career… Scarlett O’Hara) and their affection for each other is shown in the way they fumble over each other.

Modern Times is a masterpiece and a rollicking good time. Filled with iconic images (The Tramp going making his way through a sea of gears appears in this film) and gags, Modern Times stands up on repeat viewings. Oh if only I can catch this on the big screen the way it was meant to be seen. It would be awesome!