A fading comedian and a suicidally despondent ballet dancer must look to each other to find purpose and hope in their lives.A fading comedian and a suicidally despondent ballet dancer must look to each other to find purpose and hope in their lives.A fading comedian and a suicidally despondent ballet dancer must look to each other to find purpose and hope in their lives.
Finally, in 1940, Chaplin directed and starred in his first talkie, The Great Dictator. Three more followed, Monsieur Verdoux, then Limelight, then King of New York, which happens to be the only one of these four I have not seen. The Great Dictator and Monsieur Verdoux were both good films in their own way, but perhaps Chaplin's in depth political commentary in these films detracted from them. The type of comedy that you find in his silent films did not mix well with this social commentary. The simple juxtapositions of the worlds of the poor and the rich in City Lights and Modern Times were far more powerful than what his first two talkies had to offer.
Then came Limelight, one of the most bittersweet films ever made. It is not perfect, but it achieves a grand melodramatic beauty that few films have ever even approached. The story is simple: a washed-up, old vaudvillian rescues a young ballet dancer from suicide. He takes care of her until she is healthy again, and even restores her confidence. The story may be simple, but the character dynamics are very complex. As the dancer, Theresa, is recovering, Calvero is not only rebuilding her confidence, but also his own. Theresa, because of his kindness towards her, finally believes she has fallen in love with him, even going so far as proposing marriage to him. Whether she actually loves him or not, and Calvero strongly asserts that she shouldn't and doesn't, these two characters have a constantly evolving relationship that does not end until the credits role. It is utterly fascinating, captivating, and dramatic.
There are a couple of problems, and though they're small, they deserve attention. Perhaps the biggest problem is that Claire Bloom is quite guilty of overacting. Her line delivery is bizarre and overdramatic. This isn't a big deal, since you ought to be keenly aware that the film takes place in the world of melodrama, and is thus exaggerated. Another thing that irked me is Buster Keaton's role. It is little more than a cameo. In fact, his character doesn't even have a name in the credits. This is truly disappointing, seeing that he, although Chaplin may have had the most heart, was the all-around funniest silent comedian.
- Mar 1, 2001