A Countess from Hong Kong Reviews
Since Charlie Chaplin is working with Academy Award winners Marlin Brando and Sophia Loren, its more of a star effort than the usual Charlie Chaplin film, particularly because his role is simply a brief cameo. And it differentiates from his more traditional films in many ways including the cast and his role in the film.
One key way is the comedic style of the film. Rather than being a lot of slapstick material, A Countess from Hong Kong is a clever mix of romantic comedy and farce which is of lighter material than his earlier works where he portrayed his famous tramp character. And in its own quaint little way it is successful and somewhat comedic. Although its arguably not as funny as his earlier works, particularly his films that featured his tramp character, A Countess from Hong Kong still has the charm of a Charlie Chaplin film and the quality of a technical step-up, being filmed in colour and featuring plenty of dialogue and beautiful cinematography, all while retaining the simplicity of its story on a really low budget by shooting all its scenes within the space of a simple few sets. And the sets are convincing and the atmosphere is light, so A Countess from Hong Kong proves to feel like a legitimate movie and is really easy to watch.
A Countess from Hong Kong is a colourful visual experience, because being Charlie Chaplin's only film in colour he manages to make the most of what he can on such a low budget, and it proves to be effective as there is a lot of colour to go around in A Countess from Hong Kong which includes the well-constructed scenery and appealing character costumes.
The musical score is also pretty well composed and nostalgic to the time the film was created in, as well as touching on the light qualities of the comedic atmosphere in A Countess from Hong Kong.
A Countess from Hong Kong is indeed an imperfect film, because while it has a natural charm to it thanks to Charlie Chaplin's writing and directional efforts, the comedy is very toned down and is extremely inconsisteny in A Countess from Hong Kong, therefore not being too effective in supplying many laughs. Although Charlie Chaplin considers it his finest effort, I wouldn't. It's surely a good film, but not a great one or one that measures up to the kind of critical success of a film like The Great Dictator. But nevertheless it is a bold and ambitious move on behalf of Charlie Chaplin to be tackling more serious territory, even though it's a farce of a comedy. I didn't laugh that much even though I had hoped to, but I still enjoyed the film and admired the charm that Charlie Chaplin had bestowed upon it.
Most of the success in A Countess from Hong Kong can be attributed to Charlie Chaplin's efforts, but one of the key most positive qualities is the skills of the undeniably talented cast who all do their own to keep A Countess from Hong Kong afloat.
Marlon Brando is an interesting lead in A Countess from Hong Kong because it isn't often you see him in a comedic role, considering that his more famous roles are his dramatic efforts in A Streetcar Named Desire, On The Waterfront and most of all The Godfather. So seeing him at age 43 in a Charlie Chaplin film is quite an interesting idea on the surface. And his success in the film is built on the neurotic elements of his character and the chemistry he shares with fellow Academy Award winner Sophia Loren as there is always a romantic tension there which gives the story a compelling touch. Marlon Brando is a fine lead in A Countess from Hong Kong and he manages to prove that through the simplistic elements of his acting he manages to achieve comedic success without much stress.
It is Sophia Loren who has to portray the most Chaplin-esq figure in A Countess from Hong Kong, because although her character isn't reliant on slapstick, her actions tend to be one of the key sources of the comedy in the story as she is full of unpredictable quick movements and plenty of energy over the course of the story. She is both thoroughly attractive and sexually appealing in A Countess from Hong Kong without it ever being rather suggestive as it comes simply from the natural physical movements of her, her beautiful face and rather passionate line delivery. Sophia Loren treats A Countess from Hong Kong like she would any film that was based on good material, and so in A Countess from Hong Kong she has a lot of classical comedic spirit and visual appeal which makes her a fine casting choice. Her chemistry with Marlon Brando is rather interesting to keep up with.
Patrick Cargill also manages to work with both actors and five a convincing supporting role with a lot of Chaplin Charm to it.
Unfortunately, Tippi Hedren is rather off key with the rest of the cast in A Countess from Hong Kong and her inability to stop talking and lack of sufficient charm proves to detract from the general feel and movement that the story in A Countess from Hong Kong entails. She isn't at her finest in A Countess from Hong Kong, but she isn't too bad and she has her moments.
So the passion of Charlie Chaplin and the dedication of the cast in A Countess from Hong Kong help to ensure it transcends its inconsistent laughs and lack of the same charm of Charlie Chaplin's efforts he was more directly involved in, particularly in portraying his tramp character.
The thing I HATED about this movie was the incessant use of a buzzer to announce entrance into the cabin that Brando and Loren's characters were staying in. It was shockingly loud, very jarring and overused almost to the point of stopping the movie. I think Chaplin was trying to use it for comedic effect but it just disturbed whatever flow they had managed to achieve up to that point.
Nevertheless, a curiosity worth looking at, to see a movie that demonstrates why not all actors and directors are cut out to do all roles.