Monsieur Verdoux Reviews
A dark comedy-drama from the great Charlie Chaplin. Not a laugh-a-minute, unlike his best works and a bit uneven. The first hour is quite dry and contains very few laughs. In addition, the drama is slow-paced and the movie doesn't seem headed for much. However, things pick up considerably in the second half with some hilarious scenes and some interesting dramatic themes developing.
The main reason for the better second half is the performance of comedienne Martha Raye, who plays one of his wives. Wonderfully over the top, she provides most of the best comedic moments and breathes life into what was otherwise a fairly stuffy, play-like affair.
Chaplin plays the titular Verdoux, a serial killer married to about a dozen different women across France. Chaplin's performance is wonderful. He's charming, witty, and has a gift for gab. Interesting for one of the best silent comedians ever to be a gifted talker, yes? Chaplin's performance is one of the few bright spots.
The film bills itself as a comedy of murders, but there's very little comedy. There are a few attempts, yes. One or two gags land, but this feels more like a thriller than anything else. There are definitely a few scenes that would be right at home in a Hitchcock movie. As a matter of fact, Chaplin's tension building in this one rivals the master of suspense himself.
The film gets a little preachy towards the end. Verdoux's social commentary feels very tacked on and forced. It has nowhere near the power his amazing speech in the Great Dictator did.
Still, it is entertaining, if only to watch a man known for making us laugh transition so effortlessly into one who shocks us with his horrifying deeds.
Funny, wry, philosophical, paradoxical, compelling, cynical, satirical.
The serial killer story is tempered by the creative force behind the film of course, and by the fact that - for the most part - this IS a very black comedy. But it's not ludicrous or OTT slapstick ENOUGH to temper feelings of discomfort and confusion about the fact that our charming protagonist (our once cuddly Little Tramp) is actually a mass murderer. But so what? Chaplin obviously WANTED to engender some discomfort and confusion with this film, and the poignant, thoughtful dramatic aspects herein (and there are many) align the individual's exploitation of a few women with the exploitation of the many by the world's powerful few. More unsubtle (but also lovely) digs about the world's lust for salacious headlines about individual personalities above really caring about the mass tragedies next door.
I'm making this film sound heavy, but it's not. There's several superbly staged vignettes, and a couple of great slapstick bits worthy of The Little Tramp himself. There's some clever wordplay too, but for the most part the joy in this flick comes from the performances - Chaplin casts some brilliant (relative) unknowns into some awesome roles. Nash, Raye, Hoffman - are all very rewatchable. Best of all is of course the man himself. Chaplin - fussy, fastidious, effusive, eloquent, calculating, captivating - gives a fantastically assured performance that (as much as I adore The Tramp) makes me wish that he'd released a few more talkies.
He's just great.
Defying my expectations, Monsieur Verdoux is a more narrative and character-driven film than conventional slapstick comedy. It does this instead of adhering to conventional slapstick, and it is the first feature film where Charlie Chaplin has no resemblance to his "tramp". The result is rather strange, an experience in lighthearted dark comedy where Charlie Chaplin spends more time talking than walking. The screenplay is built upon strange subject matter and a tone which is very strange, tying the humour of the film into a narrative which seems rather dramatic. There are brief bursts of drama along the way, and they serve as moments where the screenplay decides to be a political statement and Charlie Chaplin's criticism of the contemporary narrative society. As insightful as they are, they seem to come out of nowhere and feel misplaced within the narrative. In essence, Monsieur Verdoux does not have much of a story as there are so many different themes and characters being jammed into the one story that it ends up unfolding like a series of vignettes which are only strung together very loosely. The narrative structure is frustrating as the film cuts from one scene to another with the same basic ellipsis nearly every time. There is almost always the same footage of moving train wheels and the same basic soundbite which is a rather cheap transition. The film keeps on going at this and introducing all new characters until it finally reaches its climactic end, and the final note seems all too sudden as a result. There is no resolution to plot points regarding many characters in the film, it just focuses on pushing the main character forward and leaving everyone else behind. This is obviously not the best manner of storytelling, so it leaves me concluding that Monsieur Verdoux was ultimately an experimental film on behalf of Charlie Chaplin which evoked mixed results.
Since the entire film is such a constant series of shifts in mood and subject matter, the genuine development of it all does not feel real. Monsieur Verdoux spends time building up the characters before it introduces Charlie Chaplin's character, but the relevance of these characters ends up being minimal as so many more are just thrown at the viewer as the story keeps going. It is never overwhelming, but that's simply because there is not a feeling that the anything aside from the protagonist of the story is worth keeping up with.
Though Monsieur Verdoux is a comedy of sorts, I can't necessarily say that I laughed all that much. Clearly a film of its time, Monsiuer Verdoux is clearly a dark comedy which pushes the boundaries on what audiences can expect to find humour in, but by today's standards the material is fairly tame. And when I say tame, I mean to the point that the material leaves me wondering if I should be laughing or viewing it all as drama. Either way, the battle of time has left the genre of Monsieur Verdoux somewhat ambiguous.Because of that, looking beneath the surface is a lot easier and so trying to find something that sufficiently carries over to the modern day and still stands up so well is challenging. The one thing that is genuinely still interesting about the film is the strange nature of the titular character. The success of this is largely built on the performance of Charlie Chaplin, but Monsieur Verdoux himself is quite an oddball. He is such an unsuspecting serial killer, finding no slight problem in his actions that he cannot justify some way. Although the loose structure of the story puts him into a series of strange situations, the perspective on him which we are provided from witnessing it all can prove intriguing because the film centers around so many facets of him. His perspective on life, his relationships with the other characters and even his genuinely charming facade which hides his nature as a serial killer makes him a character packed with potential. And from there, what Charlie Chaplin is able to do with the character really makes the feature memorable.
Charlie Chaplin's leading performance is the saviour of Monsieur Verdoux. I'm not certain what message he was trying to deliver as writer of Monsier Verdoux, but as director and actor he seems bent on promoting the idea that murder can be funny in the right context. His approach to the subject matter is so ridiculously light that it can prove strange, for better and for worse. But he justifies this with his role as the protagonist because he really brings the character to life. Portraying the titular Monsieur Verdoux, Charlie Chaplin packs the character with so much instinctive charm that he buries the idea of being a serial killer very far beneath the surface. Yet he has a slight touch of a suspicious nature about him, effectively making him more than a one-dimensional romanticized archetype. It is clearly an innovative role for him as it bears no resemblance to the iconic tramp he has played in his more notable works, resting an equal amount of importance on what he has to say as to what he has to actually do. As a result, he is effectively able to stir up sympathy and charm in the part of a serial killer which ties into the lighthearted mood of the film all very well. Charlie Chaplin has to act like never before in Monsieur Verdoux as his character is not buried beneath theatrics and technical production aspects, and it proves to be an unforgettably convincing role for the comedic legend.
So Monsieur Verdoux is an odd blend of black comedy and social commentary with a poorly structured plot that is overpacked with subplots and characters yet short on genuine laughs, yet the charms of Charlie Chaplin's acting charisma carry the titular character through all the material with consistency and compelling appeal.
Para tanto, Chaplin usufrui de um protagonista bastante complexo, que, apesar de sua atitude inescrupulosa como golpista e assassino, é em essência uma vítima dramática de uma mundo assolado pela Depressão econômica e pela ascensão do totalitarismo. Em verdade, Verdoux é um tipo particularmente trágico, uma vez que, concomitante ao seu cinismo e soberba, ele possui consciência de que se transformou em um ser desesperado por sobrevivência e estabilidade (diga-se de passagem, não só para si próprio como também para aqueles que mais ama) - e o rumo escolhido para sua subsistência só lhe trará uma gradativa corrupção de seus valores e atitudes.
Assim, Chaplin apresenta um mundo inóspito e nem um pouco idealizado, que promete apenas a incerteza e a instabilidade para seus personagens. Mas se, por um lado, o cineasta atesta tamanho pessimismo e angústia, por outro, Chaplin, como de costume, não abandona a beleza que o amor e a comédia ainda proporcionam à nossa vã existência, e é por isso que as risadas espontâneas ainda ocupam especial espaço em sua tela - ainda que desta vez sejam mais maliciosas e breves.