Charlie: The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin (2003) Poster

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Ordinary movie about an extraordinary man
h7942323 September 2005
Chaplin is a cultural icon. No question about that. So what do you do? Get some old footage, both from his movies and from other sources, combine that with footage of historians and modern celebrities talking about their impressions on the man. The concept is far from original. Basically it's the same as any number of documentaries.

The movie manages to include all the important work of Chaplin in it. However, there's no information that most people with any interest on the subject wouldn't know and how many people who are not interested on the subject would watch a movie like this?

Maybe I've just seen too many of these. Of course, I appreciate and respect the work of the man, but I just don't see the point of these little documentaries anymore. Using at least just a little bit of creativity would have been nice. If I was to do a movie about an icon I love, I would at least try to do him or her justice and set the movie apart from others. It's not all bad, just kind of mediocre.
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The film is interesting but has some question marks for me.
kirby-3718 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Basically, I liked this film and think it was well done. It does not present anything new but does include the most important films and selects very nice scenes from the work for the Chaplin lover to enjoy again. This alone makes the film worth seeing. It is interesting to hear the views of great directors and actors, though occasionally they seem a bit too gushing and exaggerated. Certainly Chaplin's greatness is hard to overestimate but every scene he did, even some very good ones, are not breathtaking works of genius. Woody Allen as usual can't be outdone by anyone, even Chaplin, so his comment about the Hitler globe scene is as glib and arrogant as Johnny Depp's is overblown. But all in all this is a very informative and well filmed review of Charlie Chaplin's life and work as one might hope for. Anyone who doesn't see the point of such films can just avoid seeing them since the title pretty much says what it will be about. If you have no interest in the theme or are already an expert who no longer gets enjoyment in seeing the work excerpted, don't watch such films.
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Wonderful documentary!
Al Rowland18 October 2003
Lots of information, lots of clips, and something that might set the record straight on things that most people won't read enough to find out! I saw this at the Glenwood Arts Theatre and took my nephew, we both enjoyed it. I laughed and cried, he laughed and learned. Definitely one to buy when it becomes available! Now I have to hunt up "The Kid" as my nephew wants to see it!
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For completists
Ali Catterall5 November 2009
"It's hard to believe, but once there was a world without Charlie Chaplin." So begins film historian Richard Schickel's documentary on silent comedy's most instantly recognisable icon, easily defined by no more than a silhouette.

Of course, history has not been kind to the lecherous old Tramp: for many contemporary - and especially British viewers and critics - it's equally hard to care one way or another. As Chaplin biographer David Robinson says: "I don't know any race in the world that are more cynical than the English and if you're cynical, you can't like Charlie. He's just unbearably sentimental."

While Schickel has confessed that he didn't have a great deal of admiration for his subject when he initially embarked on the project, conversely the end result doesn't feel much like the rapturous hymn of a Born Again-Chaplinist either, seeming neither to care about redressing the balance, unconcerned with bringing anything particularly new to an already creaking table.

A leaden, flat-footed hagiography, caught in its own airless vacuum, and eschewing any probing insight into a deeply flawed and damaged individual; Schickel's Chaplin is little more than a scratch-proof, amber-encased bowler hat, umbrella and moustache to be wheeled in and wheeled out again. Aside from a jagged run-through of already well-documented facts - four marriages, paternity suits, persecution by the FBI - we never once get an inkling of an inner life, or what made Charlie tick.

On the plus side, we do get a pile of classic clips from the performer-director's vast back catalogue, from City Lights ("his acknowledged masterpiece") to The Great Dictator (the non-Chaplin lover's fave) - along with fawning interviews with everyone from Chaplin actor Robert Downey Jr to (a vocal) Marcel Marceau, and a mini film class from the ever-ebullient Martin Scorsese.
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