Precious Bodily Fluids

The Gold Rush / Modern Times

So it’s totally backwards to watch Charlie Chaplin after you’ve seen the hundreds of stars who emulate his every move. Thankfully, I remember as a kid watching The Gold Rush before I saw Grandpa Simpson wooing his retirement-home beloved with puppeteered food and dinner utensils. Still, that was a long time ago, and it warranted another viewing (at least). The Gold Rush, along with Modern Times, is a very funny movie. Watching the guy who in many ways invented the slapstick comedy (and did so intelligently) was one of the more refreshing movie exercises in which I have engaged.

The genius began with the howling wind blowing the door open and preventing Chaplin’s ejection from the blizzard-shrouded cabin. The scene was milked for all that it was worth, and then it ended as if it had never happened. That is to say, it was still hilarious at the end, and Chaplin moved right along without looking back. The speed of the rolling film along with Chaplin’s movements made even the bear scene effective. Other sight gags such as twirling shoelaces on a fork like spaghetti, Chaplin’s morph into a chicken, and of course the famous teetering house were creative and impressive. Instead of trying to fool the audience through special effects, Chaplin embraced the primitive sets and props as a means of greater comedy.

Notes: Shot of house slightly tilted from interior prior to first exterior shot. Symmetry before/during house teetering. Perspective of other: CC becomes chicken, confession, CC hides knife. Everything but physicality and music says drama rather than comedy. CC nearly always facing camera. Innocence, optimism. Modern Times: Use of sound. Commentary on capitalism. Identification.

This entry was published on April 7, 2008 at 10:53 am. It’s filed under 1920s Cinema, 1930s Cinema, American film, Charlie Chaplin and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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