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Modern Times More at IMDbPro »

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121 out of 176 people found the following review useful:

The Farewell Performance of The Tramp

Author: razwee (
10 May 2004

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.

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49 out of 49 people found the following review useful:

As relevant today as it was then - and still very funny

Author: gogoschka-1 from wherever good films play
17 December 2013

Part satire, part slapstick comedy, part melodrama; the great pioneer of film, Charles Chaplin, has created his own monument with this film. At the same time, "Modern Times" was Chaplin's last goodbye to the era of silent film - which, remarkably, had already ended almost a decade earlier.

After nearly 80 years, this screen marvel still makes me laugh, cry - and think about the ongoing automatization of practically every trivial little thing in our lives. Modern times, indeed.

To me, this film is as entertaining and funny today as I imagine it was then, and it's certainly as relevant as it was then.

The tramp still rules. My vote: 9 out of 10.

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87 out of 141 people found the following review useful:

Hilarious comedy with a serious message

Author: Chris Thomas ( from Louisville, USA
10 September 2000

"Modern Times" is in my top 5 films, and #2 in my list of favorite comedies. Charles Chaplin is arguably the most talented human being, nevermind film maker, that ever lived. I first saw this treasure about 8 years ago, and I watched it again recently to make sure that it really WAS funny, and that I had not given it too much praise because it was simply a Chaplin film. "Modern Times" passed my test with flying colors. I laughed hysterically from start to finish. Each and every scene is innovative, well thought out, and executed with the genius that only Chaplin possessed. Among my favorite scenes are the "automatic worker-feeding machine"; the jail scene in the cafeteria when The Tramp accidentally sprinkles cocaine on his food, thinking it is salt; and the roller skating scene in the department store. No special effects or computer animation, just pure, simple, genius.

The storyline in "Modern Times" is purposefully naive, a trick Chaplin used time and again to bring a profound humanitarian quality to his films. Watching this film is comparable to watching a Warner Bros. cartoon, which coming from me is a sincere compliment. The level of physical comedy in "Modern Times" is on par with the masterful short films of Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, and others.

Finally, as was the case with most of his later films, "Modern Times" is a serious social commentary. Its message is as relevant today as it was more than sixty years ago when it was released. In fact, it is arguably even more relevant today, and unless the world changes drastically in the future it will continue to be. "Modern Times" is essentially the story of a simple but extremely kind man caught in the traps of industrialized society. The opening scene, which compares a crowd of workers boarding the subway to a flock of sheep, is Chaplin's warning against standardization, mechanization, and other facets of life which rob men and women of their individuality. Chaplin always tried to speak for the downtrodden, because despite his enormous success and wealth, he never forgot where he came from. In the end, "Modern Times" is a reminder that no matter how bad things are, you can still smile. Charles Chaplin has made more people smile than almost any other, and his legacy of love and laughter lives on in his films. Its up to us to keep his legacy alive.

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60 out of 105 people found the following review useful:

Charlie Chaplin's own deeply impoverished past plays an extensive role in the theme of his film Modern Times, which is probably the most potent of his dozens of films that deal with the difficult lives of th

Author: Michael DeZubiria ( from Luoyang, China
26 August 2001

It is a testament to Chaplin's filmmaking skills that he is able to impose such significant meaning on what really boils down to little more than a series of comedy skits strung together on an apparently flimsy clothesline of a plot. Indeed, the cinematic value of Modern Times is unquestionable, but it is ironically noteworthy that such a simple and even blocky plot is made into such a memorable film experience and delivers such a strong, time-transcending message about poverty stricken populations.

It is no secret that Charlie Chaplin was more or less dragged into the sound era against his will. In the early part of the 20th century, he had built a tremendous career as a silent film actor, and had created a character, the Tramp, that was purely a silent film character who could not be transported into the sound era. Charlie had built his career and his popularity with the Tramp, and the coming of sound to the cinema meant the end of that character (as illustrated by Robert Downey Jr.'s Charlie Chaplin in the 1992 film Chaplin, `The Tram CAN'T talk. The minute he talks, he's dead.'). Chaplin delivers to the world a cynical satire about modern technology as well as his own ode to the silent film with Modern Times.

Charlie plays the part of a man who works a dehumanizing position in a factory in which he is little more than a component of a machine, and he is controlled like a pawn by the menacing boss, who we see mostly as a looming face on a tremendous television screen. Clearly, the most memorable scenes in the film involve something to do with the factory, such as Charlie's brief trip into the innards of the machine, as well as his warm-hearted efforts to feed lunch to a man who has inadvertently become lodged in a machine, with only his head free. However, there is a very noteworthy but fairly subtle subplot that quietly reveals Chaplin's fondness for the silent film.

The first and most obvious thing is that for the most part, this is a silent film. There are intertitles, there is precious little dialogue, and the film's main character doesn't utter a sound until near the end of the film. But there are also a lot of other things that more subtly hint that silent films are better than sound films. For one thing, the only intelligible words spoken in the film are done so through some sort of barrier. There is the factory boss speaking demandingly through the television screen, and the feeding machine company speaking through the radio as they try to sell the feeding machine to the factory boss. This becomes the most obvious by the fact that anyone speaking on screen - such as the factory boss as he tells the men that the feeding machine is not practical - only does so in intertitles. We know that dialogue can be put in the film, but Chaplin chooses only to do this in a detached and mechanized way.

There is also a very strong example of Chaplin's endless sympathy for poor people at several points in this film. The most significant example of this is his interactions with the Gamin, played by Paulette Goddard, as well as his nearly constant contempt toward the police. After the scene where he gorges himself at a small diner (note that the window said `Cafeteria: Tables For Ladies'), he casually calls an officer into the diner and tells him to pay the tab, unable to pay it himself. As he is handcuffed to the officer, he gets a cigar from a nearby vendor and hands some large candy bars to a couple of small children nearby, who look to be the type of children who are never sure where their next meal is going to come from.

Charlie plays a hard working, lower class man in Modern Times, and no matter how badly he just wants to get some good work and earn a living so that he can buy a house for himself and Paulette, things constantly seem to go wrong for him. It seems that this bad luck is used to suggest that poor people are not poor as a result of their own shortcomings, but because they just can't seem to work their way up to a better life, no matter how hard they try. This social commentary is intertwined with such skillful intricacy with the story about Chaplin's love of silent film that there is really no switching back and forth between the two. Modern Times strikes me as especially memorable because it is a very simple story that is punctuated by a series of comedy skits, yet it also delivers several different messages that are important to society as well as to the filmmaker himself. In this way, the movie almost seems to deliver these strong messages without the audience even being aware that they are being presented with these issues. It is a great way to mix entertainment with important societal topics, and Charlie's decision to finally have the Tramp utter vocalized speech is done so in an endlessly watch-able song and dance scene, adding to the immeasurable number of film skits for which Charlie Chaplin will be remembered and loved.

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45 out of 87 people found the following review useful:

One of the funniest movies (silent or talkie) ever!

Author: ozgirl from Washington
15 March 2000

This movie is a must see for anyone who loves comedies. Charlie Chaplin is at his all-time best as the Tramp, and he has wonderful chemistry with Paulette Goddard's Gamin. Together, they provide an hour and a half of non-stop laughs. My favorite parts are when he is fed by a "modern" machine that goes awry, and then when Charlie goes crazy in the factory. The situations and expressions are hilarious! Please see this movie definitely will not regret it.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Some iconic scenes in socially conscious movie

Author: SnoopyStyle
14 August 2014

The Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) is just a cog in the modern machinery. He is unable to keep with the production line tightening bolts. The owner picks him out for testing the automatic feeding machine. By late afternoon, he gets lost in the machinery. He can't stop tightening causing great damage and they send him to a mental hospital. He gets out but he doesn't have a job anymore. A red flag falls off the back of a truck. He picks it and a massive march starts behind him without he knowing it. The police grabs him thinking that he's the leader. In prison, he helps thwart an escape attempt and is released. A Gamin (Paulette Goddard) is stealing food for the children. Her unemployed father is shot dead leaving her little sisters sent off to the orphanage. She steals a loaf of bread and runs into the Tramp. He tries to take the blame but she's caught anyways. He prefers life inside and deliberately gets caught stealing. They get thrown into the same wagon and escape getting thrown out together.

This has the iconic factory scene with the Tramp in the machinery happening early on. The story is slightly random as the pair has one misadventure after another as they struggle to have the American dream. The Tramp is making a statement of sorts as he gets swept up from one thing to the next. He's the cog that never really fits in the machinery. This is a sound movie with sound being used for specific and interesting ways. The Tramp is actually singing but it's a lot of non-sense. This definitely has a social commentary but it's still funny message movie.

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31 out of 61 people found the following review useful:

The Inspiration of continuing greatness...

Author: SamLowry-2 from Port Orchard, WA, USA
24 March 1999

Chaplin's "Modern Times" has influenced the 20th century as much as any other film could have. His portrayal of man vs. machine, individual vs. group, love vs. the framework of classic modern American "anti-progressive" thinking. Gilliam's "Brazil" is the late century equivalent. But Chaplin hit it right first, insuring generations would have the chance to relate to the challenges of their own modern times.

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40 out of 79 people found the following review useful:

Hilarious work of genius

Author: Geofbob from London, England
27 August 2001

Hilarious, touching, anarchic, revolutionary, realist, surreal, of its time, timeless - Modern Times is a multifaceted work of genius. When it's over and you recall the number of sight gags and magic sequences Chaplin has packed into 85 minutes, it is incredible - the conveyer belt and nut turning; Chaplin caught in the cogwheels; the feeding machine; the Red Flag march; the "nose powder"; the roller skating ballet; the waiter with tray caught up in the dance (my favourite); the gibberish song - and many more. Then there is his mixing of silent and sound techniques, making the best of both worlds, not falling between stools as some directors might have done.

Of course, there is also a political and social dimension; many of the scenes refer to the impact of technical advances, of bureaucracy, and of the then current depression, on the ordinary "little man". And it is the little man, the individual caught up in society's complex machinery, whom Chaplin championed. He may have sympathised with left-wing political parties and unions in so far as they supported ordinary working people, but Chaplin's essential beliefs are enshrined in the final "words" and shot, with him telling Paulette Godard, that she should keep smiling, they will get along, as they walk, a couple of individuals, into an uncertain future. Beyond politics, the individual has to rely on his or her own resources and spirit to survive.

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A Brilliant Allegory for Sound (Technology Advances) in Film

Author: tjgoalie13 from United States
1 October 2015

Modern Times is a hilarious, and equally brilliant Formalist Film about the rise of technology in the world, and the American dream. Directed, written by, and starring Charlie Chaplin. The film boldly made statements that at the time would have been, very controversial, and remain relevant today. However, the film is at its most impressive when one considers the care, and shear brilliance that went into the making of this film.

It seems straightforward to call Modern Times a Formalist Film, the ideas take clear precedence, while the narrative is very character driven. To further that, it would seem the main purpose of this film is to make a statement, technology and the business like approach of filmmaking are ruining the art form, however it's ingeniously hidden behind hilarious humor. The fact that the statement is so well hidden makes it all the more powerful when you realize what it is. For instance people who staunchly disagree with that opinion could laugh at, and enjoy this film without even knowing the film is making this statement.

The motifs are ones that don't age poorly as some may. Chaplin chose such vague areas, that we can watch today and relate many arguments to modern day film issues. For instance the technology argument is still present today in the form of "Digital Filming v. Film Reels", or "Computer Generated Images v. Practical Effects.", etc., both modern arguments hold similar issues with the "Talkie v. Silent" argument of the 1930's. Chaplin consistently shows motifs such as the outcast being exiled for a more uniform approach (the black sheep imagery helps parallel this), the overly complicated, often dysfunctional way Chaplin sees technology , or his pessimism towards society, through a showing of eternal optimism. It's similar to when a filmmaker makes you empathize with a character you've grown to hate. All of these motifs are subtly hidden under hilarious gags, so they don't feel preachy, or heavy handed. This approach requires care, and talent, some of the best directors today can't even send a message as subtly as Chaplin did. Part of the reason Chaplin did so well hiding his views was his ability to, for the most part argue his point objectively. By that time colors were being used to influence audience opinions, red made audiences feel uncomfortable, while blue emphasized happiness, Chaplin avoided any colors. Not only did Chaplin avoid coloring his film, he showed the contrasting views, something most filmmakers wouldn't do. It's the brilliant subtlety, and balance that makes Modern Times such a great piece of art. Chaplin carefully crafted a film with a message, but made his film enjoyable for all, which is a true accomplishment. It's truly amazing to see a film that can send a message through the opposite viewpoint, and I can't stress how truly brilliant it is.

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Historical Cult

Author: gamzeozdemirci from Canakkale, Turkey
1 September 2015

Definitely, one of the best movies of all time. If you are young and meet with Chaplin for the first time, it is the first movie that you need to see.

I am sure you'll find this movie very unique and great. With the aid of this movie, you may change your perspectives through people and maybe even your life style. It's a difficult job to foreshadow 21th century in 1936 but Chaplin did it with a perfect way that's why I adore him and his movies.

Furthermore, it represents many features of capitalism -today's economical and social model- with a satirical way of point. You may watch very "direct" political movies but don't like them because they focus on a specific kind of audience. However, Chaplin directed/wrote his movies for all sort of audiences in a very repressive time. He risked many things to make us watch these masterpieces.

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