#259 / 365 – ‘Modern Times’ (1936) – 87 mins
IMDb Challenge #152 / 250 – Ranked #69 – iTunes
The Tramp struggles to live in a modern industrial society with the help of a young, homeless woman. Charlie Chaplin bid farewell to silent comedy with this funny and poignant masterpiece. Here Chaplin stars as a factory worker fed-up with the job and his tyrannical boss (who keeps an eye on all his employees via a big-brother TV monitor). When he meets and falls in love with an orphaned street waif, the two dream of a nice suburban existence… but the cops are never far behind, chasing the vagabond couple.
The film begins with some rich striking images of a gigantic ticking clock, followed swiftly by imagery of a herd of sheep which dissolve into a crowd of factory workers as they enter their work establishment at the start of the day. The film is mostly silent, and the limited dialogue is used with a somewhat success. The factory owner speaks, but the tramp remains silent and he doesn’t need to talk as he is much more expressive when silent.
Modern Times most iconic scene is when Chaplin gets sucked into one of the factory’s massive machines and finds himself wound around the oversized cogs – it is an incredibly rich, intelligent and inventive moment, as is the utter riotous sequence of when the Tramp is made to be a guinea pig for a new machine that would enable employees to eat lunch while still working
Although the film is rich with charm and perfectly executed slapstick, it does lose a touch of its focus when the Tramp falls in love with the young homeless girl Gamine, as they set about surviving prison, and on their release, battle through the harsh industrial world around them. Not that this element of the story is a bad idea it’s just that Chaplin fails to establish a believable enough connection between the two lovers.
Modern Times marked the last picture that would feature Chaplin’s beloved Little Tramp character and it’s one that is near the top of the Chaplin ladder, mainly because it’s a virtuoso display of the great man’s comic timing.