Thursday, August 15, 2013

Modern Times (1936)

Today's film is Modern Times.  It's great!  When asked about interpreting this film, Charlie Chaplin claimed that his first goal was to entertain.  Still, there is a lot that we can get from this film (besides comedy).  I am happy as jello to share this film with you.

One of the first things we see are sheep being herded which turns into people.  Here, Chaplin is in his tramp element, but works in a factory, doing mindless repetitive tasks.  Human beings weren't meant to do these things.  He is handpicked to test out a new machine that feeds you lunch while you work so you won't get a lunch break.  Look at this thing. It looks so retro future like the Jetsons's stuff.  I love the way people in the 1930's through the 1950's imagined the future.

Now, not everything here is futuristic and great.  Sometimes it can be scary.  For example, the boss of the factory communicates through viewscreens to his employees.  He even appears without warning in the bathroom to order them around.  He exerts total control through technology.  Also, the police have too much power and will arrest anyone for the slightest thing.  Wave a red flag?  You're a communist.  What happened to different ideologies?  What happened to peaceful protests and gatherings?  Not anymore.  This is the future.

After losing his job because of a nervous breakdown, the tramp meets a gamin, a girl who is an expert at stealing food.  (Actually it should be gamine because she is a girl.)  They become close and work together to achieve the American dream of home ownership. But they have terrible luck and bounce from job to job.  Also, the police are still after them. 

Before he met the gamin, he actually wanted to go back to jail.  Let's think about that.  In jail, he gets three meals a day, TV/radio,  time to exercise/socialize, a roof over his head, his own bed, and free health insurance.  In most public schools here, they have eliminated outdoor recess and provide poor food, then wonder why our kids are unhealthy.  Children get one or two meals at school, the cheapest food on the Earth, and for the most part, that's all they'll get to eat all day.  We treat prisoners better than we do most people.  Affordable healthcare for young adults and their families? No way! That's socialism!  What about free healthcare for old people and prisoners? That's such a great idea, I'm so glad we do that!

Gamin finds a house for them to stay in, but it's "not exactly Buckingham Palace". At first, he works at a mill. Then, they both find jobs as singing waiters.  We even get to hear Tramp sing for the first time.  It's not in any language I've ever heard, maybe that's why he chooses not to talk. 

I knew it! Look: it says Jetson Mills.  It is the Jetsons's future.
I knew it was real.
However, the police are determined to tear them apart again, and the Tramp bravely escapes with Gamin. They aimlessly wander down the road and Gamin wonders why she even tries.  Tramp is so full of spirit and tells her to buck up and not worry.  Even though there is a depression going on and lots of people are unemployed, the only way we have left to go is up.  We can't give up because if we keep trying, then someday it will be better.  He's not just talking to her, he's talking to all of us.  I will give this film a 10/10.


  1. I am so happy you like this one. It is great. The comparison with the Jetsons is a good one and it is actually scary how close Chaplin was to reality concerning automation and technological surveilance. He is the rebel that refuse to accept that society and by doing that he caught the wrath of the establishment. but, hey, somebody has to say it and Chaplin did so with wonderful comedy.

    1. Thanks. Yes, this could have turned into a scary drama but somehow he kept it lighthearted.