Modern Times Reviews
Modern Times is a film that drew Charlie Chaplin accusation of luddism as he refused to move into sound cinema and instead dedicated himself to keeping the vaudevillian spirit alive in the face of changing times. Looking at the film in a contemporary age where all the man's films have nostalgic value, it is clear that Modern Times is one of his finest works. To call the man a luddist is to say Quentin Tarantino is a plagarist.
Modern Times is essentially the Tramp's journey into Metropolis. As a means of ensuring this, the production values in the feature are really effective. The production design of Modern Times is beautiful.Cleverly making use of only a selective few locations to tell its story, Modern Times manages to make the most out of all of them. Each scene in the film takes place in a different location, yet the scenes are stretched out so that there is a sense that the potential in all of them is maximized. The result is a lot of creative hilarity from the many situations where Charlie Chaplin takes his slapstick to brilliant extents. Some of the imagery in the film is the most iconic of Charlie Chaplin's entire career, including the sight of him being grinded between cogs. The humour always makes use of the universe around the characters and the entire experience is captured with fine cinematography that really turns it all into wonderful imagery while working with the movements of Charlie Chaplin. And with so much of the footage in Modern Times being sped-up, the slapstick comes at viewers a lot faster and condenses the energy of the film into a swift 83 minutes of consistent laughter. The genuine feeling of it all is kept alive by the musical score which keeps consistently flowing at a fast rate with lighthearted jonty tunes during the funnier moments of the film which also oscillate with the more sentimental tone that comes into the dramatic sequences. Rarely does the humour drag on, but at the same time it is not solely dedicated to the physical comedy side of things.
Though Modern Times is clearly dictated to be a stylie-driven slapstick comedy, there is an extent of social commentary in the story which cannot be disregarded. Though it is subtle, there are intelligent comments regarding suvival of the Great Depression and attempts to maintain employment in the face of the industrial age. All of this is buried into the comedy within the narrative so that it gives viewers a chance to laugh while they have their thoughts challenged. These plot points do not get in the way of the narrative being a joyful comedy, but they do demand the viewer's consideration. They play second fiddle to the humour in the film which ensures that it is a comedy at heart and therefore not precisely as meaningful as some of his other works where the use of dialogue is a significant factor in conveying what truly goes on in the mind of Charlie Chaplin, but the elements of political commentary are represented very well by the imagery in the film and serve to give an unprecedented level of depth to the extensive slapstick spectacle.
The recurring word to determine value in Modern Times is the term "slapstick", and it is sourced almost solely from the efforts of lead actor Charlie Chaplin. With a clear passion for the film as writer and director, Charlie Chaplin takes Modern Times' material by storm when he enters the screen because he captures his character with every inch of the part from the smallest elements of his facial expressions to his most over the top antics. Charlie Chaplin's natural gimmicks are as refreshing as ever, proving to be the backbone of the film which takes it through the entirety of its 83 minute running time. And yet, there are also some moments where he is really able to bring a touch of suble drama to the film. Though his voice is not heard, Charlie Chaplin evokes a sense of emotional frailty based on the smallest elements of his character since he really sinks his teeth into every inch of the role. And as the final silent film to feature him portraying The Tramp in a leading role, Modern Times proves to be a very heartfelt sendoff for the legendary character archetype, so it is ultimately a hilarious and bittersweet effort on behalf of Charlie Chaplin which never fails to leave audiences of all different times and ages laughing at the sight of a clownish man falling into machinery
Paulette Goddard also does a lovely effort. Playing the romantic opposite of the protagonist, Paulette Goddard is not around with the intention of making audiences laugh. She is there to make them feel, and she does a lovely job of that. The level of sympathy she intends to establish is limited by the nature of the film as a silent movie, and yet she transcends that because even as she speaks in silence there is a sense of beautiful passion in her maner of delivering it. She has a smile which just lights up the screen and a determined sense of energy which she uses to keep herself consistently physically active. Paulette Goddard easily has audiences captivated by her naturally beautiful charms, so she is most welcome to be working alongside Charlie Chaplin as she interacts with his passion for physical humour with natural instict, meaning that she keeps up with the pace of the humour in Modern Times with ease.
So Modern Times delivers more of the hilarious slapstick that fans of Charlie Chaplin have come to expect, raising the scale with increased production values and increasing the genuine credibility of the film with the addition of intelligent political commentary in the subtext.