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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Modern Times a 12 in 12 review

My Dad will turn 77 next month.   The movie I watched this month for the first time came out 2 years before he was born. There is often a tendency to think that anything that happened before you were born as hopelessly out of date. To think that nothing of cultural significance happened before you showed up. However, this is far from true. In 1936 when Modern Times

MODERN TIMES - Criterion DVD cover

In 1936 when Modern Times opened in theaters it was already anachronistic. Modern Times, was a silent movie when the talkies had pretty much put that once flourishing industry out of business. Much like B&W movies were still being made in the 50's and 60's when most of the films were in color, there were still a handful of silent movies made in the middle 30's when Modern Times came out. Technically Modern Times (depicted below in lego format) is not technically a silent film. There is talking but not by any of the characters in "real life" only through the loud speaker, record player, or other "modern" inventions of the time. Chaplin also sings in one of the final numbers.

Modern Times

The rest of the movie is typical of the prototypical 1920 silent movies with music played over the action and dialogue cards. For example, here is a clip from the beginning of the film ...

One of the things I found most interesting about this movie is that even 80 years ago some things (like silent movies) that once had mass appeal were becoming obsolete and other things (like a modernized dehumanized work force) were tolerated but not liked or really accepted. There are many good reviews of the film that makes these points very skillfully, I recommend this review from Decent Films. 

I also found the 1936 review from Variety to be most informative.  The last line of the review, although written for "modern" audiences 80 years ago,  has a tinge of prophecy to it.

"Film has been two years in actual work and Chaplin should today find as wide a world-wide market as in yesteryears."

I found the movie to be very accessible even to modern audiences. That is one of the reasons why critics and filmgoers alike still enjoy this film. My watch again likelihood is 90 to 100%.

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