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Humour and Humanity: Charlie Chaplin

MUBI Special

We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost….

Almost eighty years later, the final speech of Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator seem to resonate once again in our own century. From Western industrialisation to the rise of nationalism in Europe, from the Great Depression to the Red Scare (which he was a direct victim of), Chaplin commented on the historical events that shook his time through the character of the Tramp, becoming an artistic and ideological phenomenon. We are thrilled to revisit the work of the actor, filmmaker, producer, dancer, composer and humanist with seven of his films, including both lesser-known and landmark titles.

A King in New York

Charlie Chaplin United Kingdom, 1957

Our Tramp retro comes to an end with his attack on the U.S. film industry and the House of Un-American Activities, the same institution which forced Chaplin into exile in Europe. Although working outside of his studio for the first time, Chaplin unmistakably makes politics highly entertaining!

Limelight

Charlie Chaplin United States, 1952

Made during the height of McCarthyism and the Red Scare in the U.S., Limelight was Chaplin’s reaction to his own decreasing popularity. A return to the memories of his youth spent in London music halls, it depicts with sweet and nostalgic details the life of an entertainer, as well as fame’s blows.

A Woman of Paris

Charlie Chaplin United States, 1923

As part of our Charlie Chaplin retrospective, we are proud to show one of his lesser-known works–his venture into more “serious” filmmaking, a romantic drama (!), in which he only appears for a few seconds (!!). A piercing study of social behaviors, it certifies Chaplin’s unique directorial talent.

The Great Dictator

Charlie Chaplin United States, 1940

Charlie vs. Adolf! In his most controversial film (as well as his first “talkie”), Chaplin took on fascism with subversive humor, trademark slapstick, and a feast of now-classic scenes. The final speech is legendary, the “globe dance” wicked and perverse. An absolute essential in our retrospective!

Modern Times

Charlie Chaplin United States, 1936

As part of our cycle on “The Tramp”, here is possibly his greatest masterpiece, though with so many, who’s to say? Modern Times contains some of the comic’s most brilliant and politically savvy routines, as Chaplin staved off the 20th century (and sound cinema) with wit and elegance.

The Gold Rush

Charlie Chaplin United States, 1925

Next in our Chaplin retrospective, one of his most beloved comedies, with one iconic moment after another. At the time, audiences so loved the famous “roll dance” that some theaters reportedly rewound the film just to play it again—and you may be tempted to do the same.

The Kid

Charlie Chaplin United States, 1921

We open our retrospective on the legendary comic director Charlie Chaplin with his first feature-length film, a personal work which has now become a beloved classic– The Kid. A testimony of Chaplin’s humanism, it is an unforgettable ode to kindness and one of cinema’s most touching treasures.

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