8:21 PM, 10th September, 2005
He's a goddamn ballet dancer" was WC Fields' opinion on Charlie Chaplin, and there's definitely something to that - his comedy was so exclusively physical that he only produced two films during the first decade of the sound era - both of which were largely silent films in disguise, with the soundtrack limited largely to music and sound effects. Modern Times is the second of these, and in many ways is a summation of Chaplin's career - the last appearance of his Tramp persona, as he tries and fails to fit in at a factory, prison, department store and restaurant. It even features him singing, albeit briefly and in unintelligible gibberish.
The critical consensus has this as one of his best works - still hilarious some seventy years later. So if you've ever wanted to know why Chaplin is considered one of the best film-makers of all time, this is your chance to find out why.
10:00 PM, 10th September, 2005
Here are two things I didn't know about this film: One, it was Charlie Chaplin's first talkie, and two, it was made at a time when the scenes of storm troopers terrorizing the Jewish ghetto were thought to depict the Nazis in an unfairly harsh light.
Chaplin is always marvellous, and in this film we get to watch him be marvellous twice, as Adenoid Hynkel, the buffoonish ruler of Tomania, and as an amnesiac Jewish barber who bears a striking resemblance to the tyrant. Just as Chaplin couldn't resist the opportunity of making capital out of the fact that he was the only other person in the world to have Hitler's moustache, the barber gets a chance to make use of his curiously coincidental resemblance to Hynkel. Does he have the courage to make the most of this opportunity? No. Not at all. But somehow he does anyway.
This film has many wonderful moments: the haircutting scene to the tune of Brahms's Hungarian Dance No. 5 is a standout (you'll be humming the tune for the next week), and the ballet with the globe is at once beautiful, funny, and a little disturbing.