Monday, November 21, 2011

A Filmmaker's Blurb About Charlie Chaplin

The other night I watched the Charlie Chaplin movie, Limelight. It was one of his final movies to be made, and one of his first to be made after he moved permanently to Great Britain, after coming under McCarthy scrutiny post-WWII. This movie is one of the rare Chaplin works that is a talkie, and in so many ways I think sound finally lends Chaplin's ideas a clarity that his silent films never had. This leads me to my biggest point here. The thing that separated Charlie Chaplin from all of his silent companions like Buster Keaton, is that he actually had something to say when the time came.

Chaplin was known for making movies with messages in them, but his characters were always slight archetypes in his silent days, and even in some of his early talkies. With Limelight, Chaplin plays an aging stage comedian in London whose career has all but ended, he just cannot seem to get work, and when he does the crowd doesn't laugh anymore. However, all changes when he meets a suicidal ballerina and the two of them work together to rebuild their fallen careers.

This movie, being somewhat autobiographical for Chaplin, is one of the few Chaplin movies that has genuine character development to it. Perhaps it was the added bonus of dialogue, with the characters saying one thing but the actors' faces saying another, but I really think it is primarily because with this movie he just had so much to say.

He was always a political guy who seemed to have his own opinion on everything, but out of all of Chaplin's movies that I have seen, this one seemed the most personal. The movie never really dabbles into politics like Modern Times or The Great Dictator, or even City Lights, the movie is simply about the pursuit of art, something Chaplin knew better than just about anything. It is very easy to be political and make statements from your mind, but it is very hard just to go from your heart, which is what Chaplin did here with Limelight.

It truly is, I think, Chaplin's masterpiece and needs to be seen. The two primary characters are just so deep, with fleshed out backstories doled out by dialogue (which is something that silent films struggled to deliver and make you feel when it was usually just relayed through text screens). However, the sheer passion that every frame of this movie exudes, is just an inspiration for me as an aspiring filmmaker.

It simply feels here that Chaplin made what he felt at the time, rather than what he was thinking or thought what people wanted to see, and that means all the world to me. It is something I want to do every single time I get behind a camera and shoot a movie, and it is something that I am not sure I have ever fully done. Turning off one's brain is the key. Go with your heart, not your mind. That is what I have learned from Charlie Chaplin, and I am going to try and apply that from now on.

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