Modern Times (1936)

Director:  Charles Chaplin
Cast:  Charles ChaplinPaulette GoddardHenry Bergman
Plot:  The Tramp struggles to live in modern industrial society with the help of a young homeless woman.

Genre:  Comedy
Awards:  -
Runtime:  87min
Rating:  PG

One of the most memorable characters ever created in the history of film is The Tramp, who was distinctly characterized by one of the greatest filmmakers ever lived, Charles Chaplin. 

Modern Times was his last silent film made during an era when 'talkies' had started to dominate cinema, a testament to the power of such dialogue-less pictures.  Often named as one of Chaplin's greatest works alongside The Gold Rush, The Great Dictator, and City Lights, Modern Times is unfortunately, in my eyes, a tad overrated.

A flaw that doesn't plague many of Chaplin's pictures is evident in Modern Times.  Since it's a silent film, 'word/phrase transition' is a must to provide the impetus to drive the story.  However, there are too many of these that occur throughout the film. 

The result is a stop-start movie experience that occasionally spoils the fun of watching a Chaplin film.  Some of the funny scenes are not given ample time to elaborate fully (new sequences are piled up one after another), thus they rarely reach a comical peak, and is less effective compared to some of his other features.

Modern Times takes a satirical dive into the Depression era, a time when unemployment is rampant, and getting a job is like winning a lottery.  Chaplin uses the film to point out the social behavior exhibited by these people; most resort to participating in strikes whereas some turn to stealing and cheating. 

Modern Times becomes slightly more absorbing after The Tramp meets a homeless woman.  They dream of getting their own home and living a financially secure life, but like many, fail to do so.  Their exploits are mostly hilarious though it invokes sympathy in part of the viewer. 

Modern Times is not Chaplin at his smoothest, but there's enough in it to appease even the most critical.

GRADE: B (7.5/10 or 3.5 stars)

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