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Modern Times
Year:
1936
Country:
USA
Genre:
Drama, Romance, Comedy
IMDB rating:
8.5
Director:
Charles Chaplin
Paulette Goddard as A Gamin
Henry Bergman as Cafe Proprietor
Tiny Sandford as Big Bill
Hank Mann as Burglar
Stanley Blystone as Gamin's Father
Al Ernest Garcia as President of the Electro Steel Corp.
Richard Alexander as Prison Cellmate (as Dick Alexander)
Cecil Reynolds as Minister
Mira McKinney as Minister's Wife (as Myra McKinney)
Murdock MacQuarrie as J. Widdecombe Billows
Wilfred Lucas as Juvenile Officer
Edward LeSaint as Sheriff Couler
Storyline: Chaplins last 'silent' film, filled with sound effects, was made when everyone else was making talkies. Charlie turns against modern society, the machine age, (The use of sound in films ?) and progress. Firstly we see him frantically trying to keep up with a production line, tightening bolts. He is selected for an experiment with an automatic feeding machine, but various mishaps leads his boss to believe he has gone mad, and Charlie is sent to a mental hospital... When he gets out, he is mistaken for a communist while waving a red flag, sent to jail, foils a jailbreak, and is let out again. We follow Charlie through many more escapades before the film is out.
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Reviews
The Farewell Performance of The Tramp
Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times (1936) is the final film to feature the great actor/director/writer's most easily recognizable incarnation: The Tramp. Here is a character that is so ingrained in the collective conscious of modern film audiences that many recognize him despite the fact that they have not seen a single Chaplin film. Indeed, several iconographic studies have labeled The Tramp (with his worn hat, distinctive mustache, dusty suit, cane, and trademark waddle) as the single most identifiable fictional image in history.

Still, the film that perhaps most influenced the creation and thematic realization of Modern Times was not even a silent one. The Jazz Singer, which debuted in 1927, five years before Modern Times began production, is perhaps the most important watershed film in the industry's century-old history. In the film, comic great Al Jolson stands up in front of the audience and...sings. And as Millard Mitchell said in Singin' in the Rain, the public was suddenly in a frenzy for "Talking pictures! Talking pictures!" Sadly, with the advent of synchronized sound and dialogue, the world of silent filmmaking began to slip into obscurity with audiences and studios now viewing it as obsolete and undesirable. Nevertheless, Chaplin continued his passion for the subtle craft by creating City Lights (1931), which many critics and academics consider one of the greatest films ever made, but by the time Modern Times was released, Chaplin was one of the last directors left clinging to a dying art.

Modern Times is not an entirely silent film, (there are dialogue snippets and sound effects), but if you look closely, every character with dialogue (excluding Chaplin himself) is being mocked. Even when The Tramp opens his mouth (the only time he ever did so in a film), the words are nonsensical, defying the burgeoning convention that dialogue is mandatory for substance, entertainment, and quality.

Despite the film's status as one of the greatest comedies of all-time, it is hard to ignore the political component. In his movies, Chaplin often exhibited a great mistrust for authority and progress, as often embodied through the social elite, the police, and wealthy entrepreneurs. The irony of the film's title, then, is two-fold. It connects with Chaplin's own bitter feelings regarding his moribund art form, but also refers to the plight of the working classes during the Great Depression (long working hours with little job security and meager salary, while the upper classes remain wealthy and bide their idle time) The world was changing fast, and Chaplin foresaw that many of these changes were far from beneficial.

As we watch The Tramp struggle through the modern, mechanized world, we laugh at his antics and the absurdity of their results, but we can also feel pain and pity. He is clearly a man who does not belong. Indeed, The Tramp can almost be thought of as a misfit who has passed through a membrane from some alternate reality and unwittingly fallen into our familiar world (notice that he does not have a name or identification of any kind, and as far as we know, he has no friends, family, funds, or history).

He takes on assembly lines, feeding machines, department stores, policemen and various other mass-oriented aspects of the industrialized world (all which demand and exhibit sameness and conformity), but The Tramp (and his symbolic extension, the individual) never seem to fit.

This is, consequently, why Modern Times is also one of the most poignant love stories ever put on film. The only character who is on the same level as The Tramp is a young, homeless woman who is referred to as "The Gamin" and is played by Chaplin's then-wife, Paulette Goddard. These two are brought together by the fact they have almost nothing except the will to live and continue forward, despite adversity. Both are nameless, neither has a home, and they each have no money or material possessions.

It is here that Chaplin makes his most poignant and saddening statement about modern living. The Tramp and The Gamin are the only characters who exhibit individuality and idealism, yet they are also the ones lowest on the social and economic food chain. The conclusion of the film, which most likely reflects upon Chaplin's own emotions, is tinged with sadness, but also a lingering hopefulness that resonates as loudly and clearly today as it did more than sixty years ago.

Then there is, of course, the comedy, which is the stuff of legendary status. Some of the most memorable comic images in film history are found in Modern Times. These include The Tramp's bout with an assembly line (and his resulting twitches), his unfortunate encounter with "nose-powder", the moment when he quite literally becomes a cog in the wheels of industry, and his epic struggle to bring roast duck to an angry customer.

In my opinion, however, the two standout moments are the scene in a department store involving a blindfold and some rollerskates (the most exquisite moment of comedy in the film) and the sequence where The Tramp is submitted to the mad whim of an out-of-control feeding machine (the most uproarious moment in the film).

These are just a handful of moments that make Modern Times the enduring masterpiece that it is. On a personal level, the aspect of the film that resonates strongest with me is its appeal to the idealistic misfit in all of us. In our hearts, many of us long for the simplicity and exuberance with which The Tramp and The Gamin live life (with attention to the bare essentials and an absence of need for materialism and modern trappings).

As Chaplin so skillfully shows, however, our modern times make this lifestyle a faded dream, lost among the sheep-like herds of men and women scurrying through a modern metropolis that only Fritz Lang could make seem darker and more devoid of true humanity. Still, the final image of Modern Times refuses to let the film end on an exclusively tragic note and demonstrates that the individual is still alive and may yet find his way in an ever-changing world.
2004-05-10
Solid comedy with great story and drama
Greetings from Lithuania.

"Modern Times" (1936) is my first movie which i saw that features Charles Chaplin. Saw it first time in 2015, but nevertheless it's a great movie. Comedy here is truly funny, and it's not just a comedy. It tells a story, with some underlying themes that are still kinda topical till this day – technology is changing, evolving, and if you are not keeping pace with it, you will have some hard times like our hero of this movie.

Acting here is very solid, actually i was surprised of how well acted this movie was – no one overreacted. Story itself is interesting and movie is very well paced – at running time 1 h 27 min it almost never drags and is entertaining from start till finish.

Overall, "Modern Times" is a black and white silent movie (there are some sounds actually) which safely can be viewed for the first time even in 2015 – 79 years after it's original release. It has some truly genuine comedic situations, it tells good story and pacing of picture is very solid. Maybe it is not possible to review this movie correctly now because it's very old, but great movies are great movies – they can be viewed no matter what.
2015-06-28
Gov490
Laughter was a scarce resource in America during the great depression, which lasted nearly ten years from 1929 to 1939. Unemployment was extremely high and many families struggled to get food on their dinner tables. The world's economy was in shambles and many countries were on the verge of war in 1936 when Charlie Chaplin released his silent comedic movie "Modern Times". Just as many of Chaplin's movies he directed, produced and starred in this comedic masterpiece. Similar to his past movies Chaplin uses his "little tramp" character to illustrate the different trials and tribulations many men and women where facing during that time. This is one of Chaplin's first political themed movies. "Modern Times" is a story in which still relates to our everyday lives. As technology improves there will always be people similar to the little tramp character of "Modern Times", just not as hilarious as Chaplin's antics. This hilarious movie follows the Little Tramp as he attempts to find means to survive. Once he is laid off from his factory he is mistakenly identified as a communist protest leader, and quickly incarcerated. The hijiinks continue for the Little Tramp within the prison walls, one such instance was when he mistakenly consumed cocaine during lunch. As soon as the cocaine hits his system lunch is over and the prisoners must return to their cells, while he is being transported from one room to another a prison break erupts and he is once again thrown into the middle of an intense situation and he has no idea. Unknowingly he breaks up the prison break and is award for his brave actions with a pardon, once again he is free man, and however he is still broke, hungry, and homeless. Determined to get imprisoned again where he will receive three meals and a place to stay becomes his number one priority. Instantly his dream to be imprisoned again comes true as a young orphan girl whom is also dearly struggling to survive is caught stealing and as she fled from the police she ran into The little Tramp. He quickly takes the blame for the theft and is arrested. Once released from jail he his re-introduced to the young girl whom had escaped the police. The two of them immediately create a bond between them and vow to do whatever they have to do to survive. Chaplin eventually returns to work at the factory, and even though he's really not good at anything he still makes a valiant effort. His factory career doesn't last long before the workers go back on strike; once again he's unemployed and hungry. He eventually gets a job as a server/ entertainer at a local café where his young friend is performing at. Similar to all his other professions, Chaplin is thrown into the hectic lifestyle that was prevailing at the time. The increased industrialization and modernization was a huge conflict for The Little Tramp, whom was incapable of adapting. Ultimately he finds his calling, without the intrusion of technology he perfects his natural calling of an entertainer.
2008-05-29
Chaplin's Genius: Two Levels of Enjoyment
The irony (to a 16-year-old) of a 1936 film titled "Modern Times" notwithstanding, I can understand why anybody would like or dislike the film. On the surface, it's a black & white feature with scarce dialogue & cheap slapstick humor. I personally don't like slapstick comedy, but I realize that was Chaplin's forte. Besides, coming out of the silent film era, films had very little else to do for humor. Imagine a mute stand-up comedian (amen)!

However, there's a second level. The opening title shot establishes that this film concerns the American dream. The next shots show a mass of herded sheep, then a mass of herded people on the street. Later, Chaplin's boss observes an automatic feeder meant to eliminate a worker's lunch hour; this demonstrates the drive for inhuman efficiency.

Then, Chaplin meets the gamin, and they dream of a life together; Chaplin describes a dream home to Goddard's character. The film contrasts the ideal with their soon-acquired home, little better than a barn with a lean-to shed. This is a classic example of Chaplin's struggling common man in a time much larger than himself. I could go on, but it's 12:30 AM...

Chaplin's ingenuity lay in the fact that he could convey a stark message while simultaneously providing cheap laughs/entertainment. Directors such as Michael Moore fail in that respect; I found Fahrenheit 911 alternating between thought-provoking and ridiculous, but unceasingly difficult to sit through. Perhaps somebody should have written an entertaining drama or satire about an inept president named after some piece of vegetation...well, you get the idea. That's what Chaplin would have done (see: The Great Dictator).
2004-12-29
Chaplin's Best
Modern Times owes a lot to Metropolis, despite the difference in tone. You can see this especially in the first half, with the giant gears and flywheels of the monstrous factory, as well as the two-way TV intercom the boss uses to give orders.

Although there is a lot of serious content - strikes, riots, poverty, police killings - the serious and comic elements blend seamlessly. You never get the feeling you're being lectured about anything, you're laughing too much.

The element of tragedy lurking in the background makes the comedy that much stronger. When Paulette Godard comes into the picture, the tone changes from industrial to romantic. And it must be said that she is one of the sexiest heroines to appear in an American film, more surprising since it's a farce. I'd go so far as to say that Godard out-performs Chaplin in this picture, even if her later career was less notable.

You have to see this movie before you can understand anything about the art of cinema.
2004-01-23
"Buck up - never say die. We'll get along"
By 1936, Charles Chaplin was already an anachronism – albeit, an anachronism who was also treasured as an artistic genius. The arrival of 'The Jazz Singer (1927)' did little to curb the director's enthusiasm for silent cinema, and, though he considered at length the commercial implications of converting to synchronised sound, his first film in the "talkie" age was almost completely silent (Chaplin compromised by composing a musical score). Nevertheless, the critical and commercial response to 'City Lights (1931)' was strong, reaffirming Chaplin's status as a cinematic master, and vindicating his decision to linger with an otherwise extinct medium. Thus, 'Modern Times (1936)' was to follow in the same mould, despite a synchronised soundtrack which includes a musical score, sound effects and several lines of spoken dialogue (always spoken through a mechanical "barrier," such as a record-player, radio or loudspeaker). The film is historically significant in that it was Chaplin's first overtly political work, raising concerns inspired both by the economic hardship of the Great Depression, and Chaplin's growing interest in socialism.

The title 'Modern Times' is used to deliberate ironic effect. Traditionally, to be modern was to be at the forefront of human progress, a step forwards in Man's noble attempt to assert his dominance over his environment; in short, to further distinguish our species from the lower animals. Yet Chaplin believed that such widespread industrialisation was a step backwards for society. Even from the opening shot, he draws comparisons between the hustling crowds of factory workers travelling to work, and a flock of sheep being herded through a corral. The dehumanisation caused by the workers' monotonous factory work is played for maximum comedic effect, with Chaplin's Tramp eventually driven to a nervous breakdown by Frederick Taylor's apathetic brand of scientific management. In these conditions, direct human interaction is minimal, and almost always channelled through an mechanical mediator. In a scene predating Orwell's "Nineteen-Eighty Four (1949)," Chaplin is reprimanded by a telescreen in the bathroom, the image of his boss looming overhead like the spectre of Big Brother.

Chaplin may also have been remarking upon the rise of the Hollywood studio system, which by then employed a comparable assembly-line approach to film-making. Chaplin, who was given full artistic control through his co-ownership of United Artists, worked in complete opposition to these practices, though it could be argued that his perfectionism and often improvisational style was so inefficient that only an artist as wealthy as he could have gotten away with it. Truth be told, there's nothing particularly distinguished about Chaplin's direction – despite his strong reliance upon actions over words, his silent films were never as visually accomplished as that of Murnau or Lang, for example. However, his greatest talents as a filmmaker were concerned with the plight of people, and, however much sentimentality he liked to dish out, there can be no doubt that, in Chaplin's characters, one found individuals with whom they shared a very real human bond, of empathy and compassion. For all the director's criticism of modern society, he possessed a genuine belief in the value of human spirit.

When Chaplin came under fire for alleged "communist sympathies" in the late 1940s, the content of 'Modern Times' was scrutinised for evidence to support the allegations. Certainly, within the director's distaste for industrialisation one may discern an underlying dissatisfaction with capitalism, but Chaplin was definitely not a communist; after all, a prime motivation in his choosing to continue producing silent films was to retain his commercial popularity in foreign-language markets – that's the capitalist spirit! Nevertheless, Chaplin was eerily prescient when he included a scene in which his Tramp is falsely accused of being a communist, mirroring his own intense political troubles, which concluded in 1952 with the retraction of his US re-entry visa. Though he was initially hesitant about breaking his screen silence, as Chaplin's political convictions grew, so too did his desire to have himself heard. For that, he would, however reluctantly, have to embrace the technology of sound, and, for a mouthpiece, he would choose the most hated man in Europe.
2009-03-21
Chaplin's happiest film : )
"Modern Times" A story of industry, of individual enterprise - humanity crusading in the pursuit of happiness."

this is my first Chaplin film and favorite Chaplin film cause it has a great message about how man has gone with the machine and the movie is hilarious i never laughed so hard in my life and its not crude or anything its so happy.its really a beautiful story.

but what you learn about him being more happy in jail than in the factory, and a great dramatic performance by Paulette Goddard too. this film has great performances even if its silent.

and this film also tells you to not give up like he said "Buck up - never say die."and the music is great too and sound.modern times is must see for anyone.

now you know "modern times" delivers great laughs, some tears and Happiness.

10/10.
2008-03-17
Tramp against the industrial revolution
The Tramp must face up against the industrial revolution in this Charlie Chaplin film that marks his first foray into political commentary. The film was made to comment on the Great Depression and the effect automation and industry had in making it happen. At least according to Chaplin himself.

Beyond that the film is your typical Charlie Chaplin film. The Tramp is introduced, the Tramp faces difficulties, physical comedy segments, the Tramp meets a girl, the Tramp does something funny to impress the girl, difficulties, physical comedy, and it all ends in a funny, bittersweet yet uplifting way. If you've seen Chaplin's other films, you've seen this for the most part.

That being said, the sets in this one are some of the best I've seen. Modern Times has some of the most iconic comedy scenes in cinema history for a reason. I also really like the heroine played by Paulette Goddard. A girl of spunk, character and resources, who takes care of the Tramp more than he takes care of her, which is a refreshing turnabout. Especially for a film this old.

Modern Times is a fine film. Personally I do find it a bit too segmented to be a great film, and Chaplin's style of humour has never been my forte. But it's a fine film, no doubt about it.
2017-08-29
These are but a few delightful features of the Billows Feeding Machine…Modern Times
Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times is a wonderful little film. It is in effect a series of shorts strung together and connected by the two leads, Chaplin's tramp and Paulette Goddard's gamin. The tale is about how the machine age has taken over industry, throwing men on the streets with no jobs or money to keep their families afloat. In a brilliant stroke of ingenuity, Chaplin decides to scrap the idea of making this a "talkie" and allows only machines to have a voice. For instance, if the boss needs to bark orders, he does so through a TV screen and if Mr. Billows needs to explain how his feeding machine works, he plays a record containing his full speech. The sound effects are great and the visuals stunning, especially while at the factory. What its essentially a silent film at its core, Modern Times is so much more. A commentary on technology and the dream of making a home for the ones you love, it is also a very sharp comedy that will have you laughing throughout with its physical gags.

During the course of his travels, Chaplin's tramp gets mixed up in some impressive set-piece jokes. From the assembly line shenanigans, to the giant gear trappings, to the feeding machine, inadvertently leading a Communist march, a couple stints in jail, a department store disaster, a dilapidated house, and the struggles of waiting tables, he always finds a way to get out of trouble. With all these things happening, the film can appear a tad disjointed, but as his character continues to evolve and the title-cards give us elapsed time, it still holds together as a complete story. A king of physical laughs, Chaplin never holds back either. His nervous breakdown at the plant shows his dedication to the comedy by being unable to shake the arm motion of his job even when he is outdoors and, of course, the rollerskating stunt later on is impressive. I'd be interested to see how that was shot, either composed post-filming to add the drop, or if he really was that close to the edge.

You can't deny the man's gift as an artist. How each vignette plays out is inventive and humorous on its journey. Even the moments with the beautiful Goddard are funny in their own right. Her manic facial expressions and piratelike mannerisms while stealing bananas on the docks during her introduction bring some good laughs. Her character is used pretty much as a straightman to Chaplin's lunatic, but she plays the part well. The dream sequence of the two living in a nice house with fruit hanging at every window is priceless and the final scene at the restaurant is a riot. With her trying to help him out in getting a steady job and him mucking it all up to end up needing to sing in gibberish, it is the best part of the movie.

While I feel people of all ages can appreciate the film on its own merits—the comedy is broad and kids will enjoy the stunts and bodily harm stuff—it does contain some adult situations. Besides the Communist march mentioned previously, there is a short scene with Chaplin drunk along with a more lengthy part with him after imbibing some "nose powder." It is never actually labeled as being drugs and the scene could be effective still without knowing what the powder is, so one should not use it as the sole reason to not show it to children. Modern Times is a classic on many levels and has proved so by standing the test of time for seventy years thus far.
2007-09-22
Modern Times
Human existence and technology have been consistently intertwining with one another. From the initial appearance of the steam engine to the embedded chip under one's skin, automation has portrayed its real facet, that of a persistent evolution which replaces man and his fragility with a more perfect machine and immortality. Is it nonetheless worthwhile?

A 1936 Charlie Chaplin anticipates time and science by disputing the benefits of a technological contribution to life as we know it. Forcefully led as sheep into a subway, modern individuals sacrifice their Heimlich for the unknown; a rush towards a new slavery in order to acquire properties that are the fruits of personal fatigues rather than for overabundance. Useless belongings call for even lesser useful belongings, while the prize at stake would be an unconditional submission to a technological yoke that can induce the overpowering twitching of a body to relentlessly continue even when the machine stops.

A machine that ought to remain a simple extension of individuals' will or greed, throughout perseverance accompanied by a considerable number of failures and short circuits, slowly takes over and transforms humans into its own prosthesis. In this Deus Ex Machina (apó mēchanēs theós) situation, human beings are no longer champions of the Tragedy, but surrender to the solution itself. It is the genesis of a manichaeistic battle between two worlds; one where the desire to remain faithful to senses is only achievable through nonconformity and another that provides means of sustenance only through conformity. The inability to cohabitate both existences becomes unsustainable. Traditional ways of providing food or a roof over one's head become obsolete, and Law itself no longer protects the accidentally defenseless but accuses him, or her, of treason ("the communist").

What is one to do? Act like the cabman in Robert Louis Stevenson's short story The Body Snatcher, who shifts from an initial assumption of digging graves and provide corps for scientific purposes, to uncontrollable and impulsive murders? Perhaps abandon ourselves like Dr. David Kibner (Leonard Nimoy) to an emotionless, yet eternal, dimension in a 1978 San Francisco (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1978)? Or possibly allow a victorious artificial intelligence to facilitate our final transformation into humans' next biotechnological essence, just like HAL 9000 (IBM) did with Dr. Dave Bowman by turning him into a new "Star Child" (2001 A Space Odyssey, 1968)?

For what purpose is it all if, in the end, artificial intelligence is moved by the sole aim of resembling Human Kind in its "perfection"? Humanity would then face a situation in which a highly advanced robotic boy name David desires to become human in order to feel his mother's love (Artificial Intelligence, 2001).

"Buck Up – Never say die. We'll get along!" (Modern Times, 1968). Let us walk toward the sunset a little bit longer
2008-05-29
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