#78 Modern Times

Modern Times (2 Disc Special Edition)

Amazon.com essential video
Charlie Chaplin is in glorious form in this legendary satire of the mechanized world. As a factory worker driven bonkers by the soulless momentum of work, Chaplin executes a series of slapstick routines around machines, including a memorable encounter with an automatic feeding apparatus. The pantomime is triumphant, but Chaplin also draws a lively relationship between the Tramp and a street gamine. She's played by Paulette Goddard, then Chaplin's wife and probably his best leading lady (here and in The Great Dictator). The film's theme gave the increasingly ambitious writer-director a chance to speak out about social issues, as well as indulging in the bittersweet quality of pathos that critics were already calling "Chaplinesque." In 1936, Chaplin was still holding out against spoken dialogue in films, but he did use a synchronized soundtrack of sound effects and his own music, a score that includes one of his most famous melodies, "Smile." And late in the film, Chaplin actually does speak--albeit in a garbled gibberish song, a rebuke to modern times in talking pictures. --Robert Horton

DVD features
A "Chaplin Today" feature includes the penetrating observations of Belgian directors Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne. Whimsically, there's a karaoke version of Chaplin's nonsense song (the first time his voice is heard in his films), plus a clip of Liberace crooning the famous Chaplin composition "Smile." A curious 10-minute Cuban film from 1967 records the reactions of villagers seeing a movie for the first time (it's Modern Times), and along with photo and poster galleries, the extras are somewhat padded out with two vintage promotional films about the machine age. --Robert Horton

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