Natascha, a White Russian countess, stows away on a luxury liner at Hong Kong, determined to seek a new life in America. Natascha hides in the cabin of Ogden Mears, a millionaire diplomat, ... See full summary »
Marie St. Clair believes she has been jilted by her artist fiance Jean when he fails to meet her at the railway station. She goes off to Paris alone. A year later, mistress of wealthy Pierre Revel, she meets Jean again. Misinterpreting events she bounces back and forth between apparent security and true love. Also misinterpreting, Jean commits suicide. Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The re-issue of this film, with a musical score and new cut by Charles Chaplin, was the last work of his entire film career. By then the 87-year-old Chaplin was visibly frail, but still walking. His score was aided by arranger Eric James, and he took a small theme from Monsieur Verdoux (1947), but most of the score was Chaplin's. The film was re-issued posthumously in 1977 with the new score to overwhelming critical and public praise. At that time many critics praised it (as in the trailer) as one of the best films ever made. See more »
A Woman of Paris is probably best known, ironically, by the fact that it is a Chaplin film that Chaplin does not appear in. It opens with a title card in which Chaplin himself wishes to clear up any misunderstanding by mentioning that he does not appear in the film, but my understanding is that it was a popular and critical failure at the time of its release. He does appear in the film, but walks on and off screen so fast and looks so little like himself that there is really no reason for him to be there. The film's popular failure seems to have been something that plagued him through the rest of his career, since he returned to the film and re-scored it at the age of 87. It was the last work he ever did as a filmmaker, and the result was that people finally recognized the film for the master work that it is.
We meet a young woman whose father keeps her in the house under lock and key, but who nevertheless escapes at night to visit her lover, whom she plans to marry. One night, her father sees her leaving, and then locks her out. He then proceeds over-react to the point where he won't allow her in the house, so she is forced to try to go find a place to stay at her boyfriend's house. It is a curious illustration of 1920s society that his parents want to kick her out of the house as though she were a diseased rodent. They are committing an unpardonable sin by being together at night outside of marriage. It's easy to sympathize with their desperate situation.
Soon, tragedy strikes, which leads to a tragic misunderstanding which, I have to say, is not presented very well in the movie. This is, however, probably the film's only weak point. I had to wonder why this even allowed for a level of misunderstanding that enabled her to move to Paris and join high society without ever talking to the man for long enough for him to explain what happened. It's also a little strange that they both appear to be in their mid-30s or so and are yet not only unmarried but still live with their parents.
Nevertheless, she joins a wealthy social circle and becomes involved in their wealthy and loveless life, surrounded by rich people in constant leisure, smoking cigars, drinking champagne, and eating truffles ("a delicacy for pigs and gentlemen "). It is inevitable that they will meet again at some point, and when they do, time has, indeed, made strangers of them, but his love is still alive. He has become an accomplished artist and she hires him to paint her portrait, which again intertwines their lives.
It is interesting that he is still mourning the death of his father, even years later. But he comes from a world where relationships are extremely important, whether romantic or family, and she, on the other hand, has entered a world of money where relationships are startlingly meaningless. She drags her feet at talking about the history between them, saying that she doesn't want to dig up the past, while he interestingly looks directly at the camera and explains that he is still badly hurt by what has happened.
Soon, she is forced to choose between a life of love or a life of luxury, and it is notable that the rich man that she was in a "relationship" is pointedly indifferent when she leaves him, explaining that he'll never see her again. "Okay, phone me sometime," he says as he casually walks out the door, leaving her to do as she will. Soon, things seem to be looking up for their mutual happiness, but another tragic misunderstanding (or at least badly timed conversation), throws everything into chaos again. When she leaves, Jean, her boyfriend, becomes desperate.
The ending of the film is deeply symbolic, and involved a long road, like the ending of some of Chaplin's better known short comedies. The film's message, that time heals and the secret of happiness is in service to others, doesn't need to be delivered as directly as it is, but it also doesn't hurt the movie that this happens. It's a deeply moving story that illustrates an unfortunate aspect of a certain level of society, a level about which Chaplin was certainly no stranger. It is definitely, as the title says, a drama of fate, and makes a strong comment about what is important in life. It's interesting to consider Chaplin's personal life at the time that the movie was made, but I think it's more important to let the film stand on it's own. This is a brilliant piece of film-making.
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