Saturday, 2 April 2011

All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman and a pretty girl.

No 342 - The Gold Rush
Director - Charles Chaplin

This is the 1942 re-release of the 1925 original (seriously.... 1925! This film is 86 years old!!!) - and so rather than being fully silent we have an updated musical score (which includes Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty - which confused me) and an OTT and plumby narration from Chaplin himself. In fact, Chaplin is a one man force of creation, writing the script as well as most of the music, producing, directing, starring and editing the film.

Whilst the narration does get a bit annoying at times, it doesn't stop what is a very enjoyable and incredibly sweet film.
The physical comedy is nowhere near as dangerous as the stunts performed by Keaton or by Lloyd - but where Chaplin really triumphs is in the amazing way he emotes. His facial expressions are beautiful. For the first half, it is primarily a sort of blissful ignorance, whether famously eating a shoe - or whether in great peril. The comedy is more subtle - Though there are moment in which the physicality of the time comes into play. Particularly during the time where the house is blown away.... but also when they start going mad and hallucinating...

But there is more to the Gold Rush than mere LOLS. I want to look at another famous scene from the film - the bread roll dance. Taken out of context, it may seem funny - but in the film it is a moment in which he is wooing the girl he loves. There is a lot more to it.

The delivery of that odd little dance is superb. The way that it is carried off with a casual nonchalance. But, for me, the real power is the yearning in his eyes. Whether it is supposed to be a part of the dance, or whether it is an attempt to get the recognition he craves from the girl he loves, I'm not sure... but it makes that routine both incredible and heartbreaking.

I suppose that's the thing about Chaplin. He was famously soppy, and this film is unforgivingly sentimental - and at the same time there is a bitter sadness throughout the whole thing.

But it does have an uncomfortable moral that Women will only want to be with you if you're minted

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