Three Chaplin silent comedies "A Dog's Life", "Shoulder Arms", and "The Pilgrim" are strung together to form a single feature length film. Chaplin provides new music, narration, and a small... See full summary »
The Tramp finds himself at a circus where he is promptly chased around by the police who think he is a pickpocket. Running into the Bigtop, he is an accidental sensation with his hilarious efforts to elude the police. The circus owner immediately hires him, but discovers that the Tramp cannot be funny on purpose, so he takes advantage of the situation by making the Tramp a janitor who just happens to always be in the Bigtop at showtime. Unaware of this exploitation, the Tramp falls for the owner's lovely acrobatic stepdaughter, who is abused by her father. His chances seem good, until a dashing rival comes in and Charlie feels he has to compete with him.Written by
Kenneth Chisholm <email@example.com>
Charlie Chaplin had a string of silent feature films in the 1920s that were and are his classics, ending with a couple of amazing capstones in the 1930s. And though he is famous for having carried on the silent tradition well beyond everyone else (understandably, given his style), this one finished shooting only three weeks after the first talkie, so this is a true cusp film. And it took two years to plan and film (starting in 1926).
And in some ways this is the best of them all for the simple reason that it avoids that occasional cloying sentimentality that you either love or tolerate in his other classics. It's a pure, light, clever, cinematically sophisticated comedy. And the physical tricks, the timing of certain gags, is breathtaking. It also has a deeply satisfying ending, shot in 1927...which you might see echo of in the last moments of "Being There" with Peter Sellars, from 1999.
"The Circus" is just over an hour and it never flags, never repeats, is never strained. Chaplin had the rare ability to do the most outrageous things and make them seem perfectly plausible--even though we know better. It's partly because he would do dozens of takes, "perserverance to the point of madness," as he said, until it felt right.
A note on the sound. This was a true silent film on its release. In the 1960s and 70s, Chaplin created musical soundtracks, composed by himself (and made edits, as well) for his earlier features. The song sung over the opening credits on the Warner Bros. DVD is Chaplin himself, as an old man, singing a song he composed. It's not really legit, in terms of period (1928), but it feels good. The music is fairly innocuous, but a bit too emphatic at times. Still, it's better than the add-on tracks most silent films get these days, and Chaplin was smart to have paid it attention.
Most of all, this is funny, uncompromised Chaplin genius. Maybe the best way to get introducted to his large body of work. See it!!
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