C.C.

Chaplin_-_Modern_Times

A piece with a long and silly history finally sees the light of day over at Moving Image Source. I wrote it probably four years ago with the Criterion website in mind, couldn’t place it there, and then failed to interest at least one other publisher (The Believer?) before submitting it to the last editor of — MIS right before he left the job. Anyhow, it can now be read, and I think it’s a good one. It certainly had WORK put into it!

7 Responses to “C.C.”

  1. Jim Cobb Says:

    Enjoyed your Chaplin piece. I think CITY LIGHTS tends to be episodic as well, even if everything the little tramp does is to help the blind girl. You do make a good point about the relationship between the “Gamin” and the tramp in MODERN TIMES… it does seems somewhat asexual. For me the best scene in MODERN TIMES which comments on film sound is when he becomes a nightclub singer toward the end. He loses the words to the song and does the song in a nonsense language with gestures. Here for me is his ultimate statement about how little he needs words. I think the non-talking scenes in GREAT DICTATOR tend to make their points better than the dialog scenes. And while it was a brave film to make at that point in history, that long speech at the end for me is pompous and boring. Only in recent years have I become aware of how much Fellini was influenced by Chaplin, but it is pretty clear.
    But then so much of film history flows back to Chaplin.

  2. Yes, sound is useful to Chaplin, words less so, so turning a song into pure nonsense-noise is the way to go.

    “When he learned to talk, he was like a child of eight writing lyrics to a Beethove symphony,” said Billy Wilder. I rather like Sidney Lumet’s more sympathetic view of The Great Dictator’s final speech: “Nothing has to be PERFECT.” The scene abandons art and just lets rip. I think it probably needed to be said, although the film’s true impact was in ridiculing Hitler, something Milos Forman received with great joy when the film was shown in Czechoslovakia after the war: the relief of finally being able to laugh at this clown.

    Chaplin is central to Fellini, and to Nino Rota.

  3. Very interesting article, David. When I think about sound in Chaplin films the recurring detail is the similarity between the nonsense song in Modern Times and The Stranglers’ “Nice n Sleazy”. Now that’s ripe for analysis.

  4. Jim Cobb Says:

    I tend to agree with Wilder’s view and anyone who has ever read Chaplin’s autobiography knows how wordy and oddly phrased his writing can be. I forget where I read it but one writer contends that all Chaplin’s films are predicated on the pursuit of food. Not sure this applies across the board. I do overall prefer Keaton but then I doubt that Keaton could have pulled off the finale of CITY LIGHTS. I do love it when Keaton appears in LIMELIGHT he says something like “I never thought it would come to this.”

  5. I resist comparing Keaton and Chaplin, who may use themselves as performers and work in silent comedy, but are quite different in their concerns otherwise. Might as well compare Keaton to Bresson, Chaplin to De Sica.

    Keaton is a greater master of camera placement. But Chaplin’s influence, from Fellini to De Sica to the Stranglers, is stronger.

  6. chris schneider Says:

    There’s something wrong, I fear, when (1) I read the title of this entry; and (2) i think of the Joe Namath/Ann-Margret epic C.C. & COMPANY.

  7. …which I had never heard of, but which I now want to see because the idea of Ann-Margret and Sid Haig in the same celluloid universe makes me dizzy as a drunken schoolgirl.

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