"Buck up - never say die. We'll get along." - Factory Worker
A true cinema classic, Modern Times is a film that works on every level. Half comedy, half poignant love story, the movie features Charlie Chaplin's last portrayal of his legendary "Little Tramp" character. It is considered a silent film by most; however, it does have synchronized dialogue spots, and it is the only time that the Tramp speaks on screen (even if it is gibberish).
Modern Times is the perfect gateway film for anyone that protests how much they hate silent movies. Children will love the physical comedy (the "feeding machine" scene is simply hilarious), and the love story between the Tramp and Ellen will captivate adults. It is impossible not to enjoy this splendid triumph of filmmaking and be charmed by Chaplin's humor.
While many silent films feature acting that exaggerates the character's actions to communicate, Modern Times wisely avoids this pitfall. As Ellen the orphan girl, Paulette Goddard seems to convey a million emotions with just an expression on her face. The supporting cast also does a great job of knowing when to ham it up (the assembly line scene, for example) and when to dial it down. Again, Modern Times is a classic work of cinema that succeeds as a comedy, a drama with a human message, and a love story. The acting is brilliant and the key to pulling this off.
There is so much more than just slapstick comedy to Modern Times. This classic delivers a loud message about the dangers of unchecked technology and its power to crush the human spirit. Chaplin's story seems to cry out that technology is a helpful tool - but not something corporations should use to enslave individuals or families. Filmed in 1936, the warnings of Modern Times are as important today as they were during the great depression. (A-)
Directed by Charlie Chaplin
Starring Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Henry Bergman, Tiny Sandford, Chester Conklin
Photo Credit: Modern Times © Roy Export S.A.S