Director: Richard Attenborough
Writer: William Boyd, Bryan Forbes, William Goldman
Cinematographer: Sven Nykvist
by Jon Cvack
The most fascinating aspect about Chaplin is seeing a man who loved his wealth and had pride in it. It’s so easy to assume that the guy who played the little tramp must have been equally modest in real life. Downey completely embodies the man’s confidence and makes the film that much more powerful. Sure, we get to see the production of various classics, but we also see a deeply flawed person who could never seem to find the right woman. He understood his genius. He obsessed over control. He was determined to always mix heavy elements into his comedy in order to make them accessible for the general public and a more intellectual crowd. It’s no wonder that when he finally included one of the greatest monologues in cinematic history from The Great Dictator that people would respond in anger. Politics isn't what they wanted from the man. Or Monsieur Verdoux - a picture that wasn’t wildly successful due to its break from his silent aesthetic yet showed what he could do with a talking picture.
Like most movies about Hollywood there’s a profound sadness beneath all the glitz and glamor. Chaplin struggled for his art. He got distracted by scandals and became the target of Hoover. Many believed he was a communist, and eventually he was forced to leave the country to which he had given so much. Yet most tragic of all is the age old story that it was only in Chaplin’s later years that people understood how great he was. I’m not sure why we tend to assume that the characters people play are who they must be in real life. Perhaps it’s our connection to them that cause or forces us to forget that they’re real humans. It’s what made Chaplin so successful and it's also was what led to his downfall; so many assumed he was the modest little tramp he played on screen.
There are archetypes that Hollywood requires - the sexy woman, the girl next door, the bad boy, the charismatic lead. Cary Grant and George Clooney. Tom Hardy and Marlon Brando. Seth Rogen and Adam Sandler. With comedians in particular there’s an inevitable descent once stardom hits, as the circumstances which allowed them to find humor in everyday situations is stripped with fame. A few can remain funny like Louis CK, but so many fall because they're no longer a part of the world that helped create them in the first place. Chaplin is most easily compared to a mixture of talent - Row Atkinson’s physical comedy, Bill Murray’s coolness, Louis C.K’s involvement, but even those feel unworthy. Chaplin was an enigma. A man whose passion and erudition for story and comedy has been unmatched. He got better with age. His films get better with age. For a man so wealthy and intelligent to play such a flawed human speaks volumes. I just wish he gave us a few more modern stories.
BELOW: The Little Tramp is created and Downey knocks it out of the park. Given RDJ's future struggles, there seemed no better person to cast in the role. He embodies Chaplin's spirit.
Thoughts on films, old and new
© Jonathan Cvack and Yellow Barrel, 2015 - 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jon Cvack and Yellow Barrel with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.