Chaplin (1992) Poster

(1992)

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10/10
A spectacular portrayal of the unseen life of Charlie Chaplin.
Michael DeZubiria10 August 2001
Robert Downey Jr., first of all, portrays Chaplin with amazing accuracy. Some parts of this performance are particularly memorable, such as his invention of the famous tramp's walk just after having feverishly picked out the outfit, the astonishingly accurate depiction of Charlie as an old man, and of course, the many parts of the film that involve parts of his life where he was working on his own films. These are clearly some of the most interesting parts of the movie, if only because these films are how we know him, but it is at least as interesting the way that the film hints towards things that happened in Chaplin's life that inspired those films.

Very early in the film, we see a scene in which Charlie's mother is booed off the stage by an impatient crowd, so Charlie, who is a little boy at the time, gets on stage to do a song and dance of his own. He performs a song that is very similar to the one his mother performed, but he wins the audience's heart and they respond by tossing coins onto the stage for him. You can't help noticing how this corresponds with the constantly youthful look of the Tramp (in Modern Times, for example, Chaplin was in his late 40s but looked like a teenager), and the coins tossed on stage may have played a significant role in helping him realize that this could be a good way to make money.

Charlie moves to America to pursue his dream, and we see the landmark events that punctuated his dizzying rise to stardom. He goes to work briefly on stage and is then hired by Mack Sennett, a gigantic figure in film history, but is unsatisfied because of his own lack of control over his work. It should also be noted here that there is a scene where he is working with director Mabel Normand, who demands acting from him that he does not agree with, and with whom he clashes. In 1914, Chaplin starred in a 9 ½ minute film called Mabel's Busy Day, in which he plays the uncharacteristic role of the antagonist. The Mabel in this film is a sporting event vendor who turns down Charlie's amorous advances, after which Charlie proceeds to steal all of her products and hand them out to anyone standing nearby. Then in 1920, he starred in another short comedy called Mabel's Strange Predicament, in which Mabel is a woman who becomes locked out of her hotel room in her pajamas and ends up avoiding the drunken Charlie for the rest of the film. In both films, Charlie plays uncharacteristic roles, the most unenviable of which was in Mabel's Busy Day, which Mabel Norman directed.

Later in the film we see Charlie in a small diner just after having terminated his employment with Mack Sennett, and he meets Edna Purviance in a scene that is reminiscent of his romantic endeavors in such early films as Caught In A Cabaret and, even more so, The Immigrant, one of his most famous early films. There are dozens of other references to the development of his cinematic personality - such as his sudden realization of how to make the Tramp appear rich to the blind girl in City Lights without talking, as well as the dance of the dinner rolls, which Charlie performs here at a dinner at an expensive restaurant - but there is an even more significant portrayal of Charlie's beliefs and his values in this movie that are more recognizable as well as more memorable to people not familiar with his earlier and less known work.

Charlie Chaplin was one of many filmmakers' in the earlier times of the medium that resented and disapproved of the coming of sound to the movies. His Tramp remains one of the most recognized figures in the history of the cinema, and it is widely known that the Tramp is an almost entirely silent character, so it is necessary for a film about Chaplin's life to address this in some way, and it is done perfectly here. There is a scene where Charlie's brother is trying to convince him to add spoken dialogue into his films and Charlie refuses outright, giving a hilarious example of a Russian ballet dancer and saying, `The Tramp CAN'T talk. The minute he talks, he's dead.' This is a brilliant way to illustrate Charlie's fondness for the silent film, as well as his knowledge that no voice given to the Tramp would fit his character right. He was too well known to be changed so profoundly.

Charlie Chaplin created 81 movies in his lifetime, many of them timeless and truly memorable, and has made a significant impact on the filmmaking medium as well as on the world itself. He was a fascinating personality both onscreen and off, which is another element of his life that was necessarily and skillfully presented in this film, this time directly in the dialogue in what is probably the single most important line in the entire film – `If you want to understand me, watch my movies.' Chaplin's ever-present sympathy for the underprivileged is subtly but effectively portrayed as two poor people approach him on his way out of a nice restaurant, right at the beginning of the Great Depression, asking for his autograph. The elderly Charlie notes in retrospect that, `I wish they'd wanted my money.'

He is always aware throughout the film and throughout his life of the difficulties constantly facing poor people, and he wants to give these people not only an escape with his films, but hope for the future. There is a point in the film where Charlie has returned to Europe to see an old friend, and he learns on the train that she has died. He is then asked, `What'll we do, Charlie?' And his answer, although spoken under his breath almost in a whisper, rings louder than anything else in the film.

`Smile.'
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8/10
the triumphs and darker spots to the clown of film
MisterWhiplash18 August 2008
Chaplin isn't really a great bio-pic, but there are moments when Richard Attenborough's direction shines and it's consistently got an amazing Robert Downey Jr. performance as the title character. In fact, this is the kind of movie where the lead actor is so important that some of the major enjoyment and success of the film rests on him/her, oddly enough since it is a varied and superlative ensemble. There are moments when Attenborough's grandiosity gets in the way, and the moments that mark it as being somewhat conventional. What made me pleasantly surprised is what Attenborough *did* decide to show with Chaplin the private man; I thought that he would cut out much of the stuff with Chaplin's penchant for young (usually underage) girls, or some of the things regarding his mother, but most of the notorious facts are put in for good measure to counter-balance some of the pompous, though fascinating, scenes of "cinematic history."

Now as a fan of Chaplin's films and the given acknowledgment that he's one of the most talented comic actors and filmmakers of the 20th century, I do get a little choked up seeing that final clip-show at the Oscars of great clips from his most famous movies. And it's interesting always, from just a movie-buff stand-point, to watch the history behind Chaplin's transition from vaudeville to Max Senett's film company to slowly becoming an independent and world-famous auteur/star. But for the most part the writing and the direction make it entertaining just on that conventional, rise-fall-rise-fall-struggle-success-at-end story with maybe less drugs and a bit more politics than one might usually see (save for one fantastic scene when Chaplin and his brother and friends are sneaking around the film footage of The Kid from the brass who want it for tax purposes).

What makes it almost outstanding, however, is Downey Jr. He's funny as Chaplin when he needs to show how he was a great clown (i.e. the 'old-drunk' bit), he's melancholy when needed, he plays Chaplin as young, middle-aged, and old perfectly, and there's just the slightest details that keep you glued to the screen to see what he'll do next. It's not exactly a breakthrough role as he'd been doing some really good work intermittently in the late 80s, but this is the one that got him recognition by the likes of the Academy, and rightfully so. It's masterful work in a decent tribute to Sir Charles "Tramp" Chaplin, and should delight those looking for a good ensemble and a commanding lead performance.
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10/10
Don't forget greats like Chaplin!
a.kellett29 December 2000
Thankyou to Richard Attenborough for this film. I watched it many a time and enjoyed both the biographical aspect and the comedic one but it has also increased my interest in silent comics of this great era.

The film begins by exploring the early life of Charlie, his Brother Sid and his Mother as they try to scrape a living. Thankfully Attenborough doesn't concentrate too much on this deprived part of Chaplin's life. However it does reveal interesting facts about Charlie that he never forgot during his rise to superstardom.

Although Chaplin is played by younger actors at the begining it is the arrival of Robert Downey Jnr which Chaplin fans will anticipate the most. He puts in an amazing performance, his London accent is excellent and ability to do slapstick even better he also really makes you believe that the great man is alive and on the screen again.

The film rightly concentrates on the private life of Chaplin and the development of the cinema. Whilst others may want to see the film concentrate on Chaplin's great pictures e.g The Kid, Gold Rush, and the Great dictator Attenborough blends the creation of these films into specific turning points in Charlie's life. For example Modern times is used to show Chaplin's sympathy towards victims of the wall street crash, as he knew what it was like to be extremely poor. His Jewish connections are also highlighted by the Great dictator, which shows his sensitivities to the European Jews were more at heart than just a making a heap of cash by having a laugh at Hitler's moustache and goose stepping troops.

The film doesn't get bogged down by Chaplin's hectic love life, as Dickie explores Charlie's political beliefs and how J Edgar Hoover was convinced of he was a communist party member. By doing so it shows how Hoover was one of the most twisted individuals to hold public office, with a dangerous obsession on peoples private lives and background.

The film does a good job in showing how important silent stars were and how we should not forget that they were the true greats when films were developing all the time from shorts to feature length, from silent to sound.
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8/10
Misguided - with so much potential...
Mary Komech20 May 2008
The first thing one should know about "Chaplin" is that, paradoxically, very little of it has to do with Chaplin. Or, at least, it has more to do with the writers' illusions of him. The film claims to be based on "My Autobiography" and on "Chaplin: His Life and Art", by David Robinson. Having re-read the Autobiography before watching the film, it is clear to me that what the writers did was take basic incidents from the autobiography and embellish them with, I can only assume, parts of the Robinson book. What results is a series of scenes which were vaguely influenced by the facts, but so simplified and primitive that little of the original truth remains.

What the writers did not wish to acknowledge was that when Chaplin wrote vaguely or skimmed past certain parts of his life, he really didn't want anyone to delve into them - and the filmmakers did just that. "Chaplin" is not really about Charlie Chaplin, his work and films. It is simply ceaseless speculation on his personal life, but going on even more vaguely about it than the Autobiography.

I am well aware that almost every biopic focuses more on the personal life of a person than on their work. The problem is that most of the characters in "Chaplin" are so exaggerated and simplified that they become almost completely unbelievable - both as the real people AND as fictional characters. None of them are fully developed. This is not entirely the fault of the supporting cast (although it really is not that interesting): the fault lies with the screenplay, which is too often bland and melodramatic. This is especially obvious in the ridiculous subplot concerning the older Chaplin and his editor, which is the most pointless and badly done part of the film; even Hopkins cannot make the lines sound credible, which is all the proof anyone needs of their mediocrity. The film would have worked immeasurably better without these additions.

Many of the most interesting aspects and parts of Chaplin's life are completely ignored, oddly, with seemingly irrelevant or less important stories added in for little reason. One scene in particular is added only to insert a Chaplin-esquire physical comedy sequence which falls flat. The writers greatly accentuated everything to do with Hetty Kelly, even making the same actress play Oona O'Neill; the tried too hard to give him some kind of motive for his relationships, which only leads to more bias and speculation; and although I am by no means a Chaplin purist or even a very knowledgeable admirer, the blatant alterations on the actual history grated on my nerves.

All this being said, the film is certainly not a terrible one. Mainly, however, this is for one reason only, and that is - yes - Robert Downey Jr. himself. The praise he received for the role is by no means undeserved. As Chaplin he is perfect, managing to make the best out of his rather predictable lines, remaining interesting, believable, and in many parts moving. He has wonderful timing and intensity, and even looks the part (he could even do the roll dance). I really quite believed he was Chaplin. Even his performance, however, suffers greatly because of the lines - and the flash-forwards. I have no doubt that he could have played an even better Charlie Chaplin in a differently made film.

The greatest scene in "Chaplin", I think, is the opening credits: Charlie arrives in his dressing room, alone, sits, and begins to remove his make-up. The scene is in black and white, and there is no dialogue - only music. Every emotion is expressed simply through his eyes. If the rest of the film had been made like this, I actually think it could have been perfect. Either way, the lead performance is astounding, the music is beautiful, and though not very insightful or too true to history, this film is well worth watching.
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7/10
It's no Modern Times, but...
Tetsel23 August 1999
Robert Downey, Jr. gives another one of his splendid performances, Kevin Kline is perfectly cast as Fairbanks, and most of the direction is superb. However, the story hops around a few too many times, and the scenes with Anthony Hopkins are weak and obviously placed in order to clarify things to non- Chaplin fans who watch the film. Overall it is enjoyable, especially the parts when we see him creating his well- known masterpieces. Recommended especially for movie fans, and most especially for Chaplin fans.
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8/10
Exceptional bio-pic
funkyfry19 December 2002
An attempt to make a film that is both honest and at the same time shamelessly self-serving about its (auto)biographical subject -- the legendary comedian/director Chaplin -- is pulled off with style. It's fun to see some modern talents inhabit the roles of screen's bygone icons (though in some cases a little less charicature would have been appreciated, especially in the case of Mabel Normand). Kline, surprisingly enough, makes a convincing Fairbanks. The rest of the cast is also well-picked -- X-Files fans should watch closely to catch quite a few glimpses of lower-billed David Duchovny as Chaplin's personal editor.

The direction is very good; I particularly liked how some of the straight scenes were filmed in a comic, surrealist style (Chaplin's escape from the police w/ his cans of "the Kid" reels is staged like a Keystone Komedy), while some of what might have been more comic elements are played straight (Chaplin's attempt to convince his brother that "The Tramp" cannot talk in a movie is both funny and serious, for example). Some of the (perhaps true to life) melodramatic elements are a bit overplayed (the bit with his mom was handled too heavily for my tastes, especially her shouting his name as she's dragged away by the asylum guards), but generally the film avoids genre cliches and "easy" scenes.

Great photography.

Downey Jr. fits the roll well, even rising to many of the physical challenges of the Chaplin mystique.

A superior film of its type, laced with self-conscious humor and self-reflection on the artistic temperament.
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9/10
Solid Gold Biopic
Dock-Ock24 April 2002
Chaplin works on many levels, because on the one hand it packs an entertaining epic in to two hours and thirty minutes, but doesn't fail to keep up your interest and comes over as being very enjoyable. Perhaps the problem is that, Chaplins life might not be the most suitable for a MOVIE,purely because his life was so eventful, and might have translated itself better as a TV Mini Series, but for getting the best out of what screen time available and still coming up with some very credible work, you must hand it over to Richard Attenborough and everyone at Carolco. For starters, the movie is simply beautiful to look at. The production design by Stuart Craig [these days of Harry Potter fame] is well tuned with the simply fantastic Cinematography by Sven Nykvist, and this is why the movie works so well, because at the more tedious intermissions the movie has to offer [and there are only a few], the movie is still interesting and prestine to watch. Just as good are Ellen Mirojnick and John Mollo's costumes designs, in fact, Chaplin offers a production so rich that at once i forgot that this was a period film, and felt transported back to the various different time zones the movie had to offer, and this is a good sign of a genius at work. Richard Attenborough did similar wonders with his Ghandi [1982], in my opinion he does it far more interestingly here. The real revelation of the movie is Robert Downey JR as Chaplin. I remember reading in a book entitled The Chaplin Encyclopedia, that hearts sank when an American assumed the role. Well, i cant really understand the kinetics behind this seeing that Chaplin spent 85% of his life away from England and was more of a worldwide Icon than a British spearhead, plus the fact that Americans ARE Good Actors, and Downey JR is one of the very finest. Charlie Chaplin himself was a couple of years before my time, but Downey JR is so fantastic, so realistic in the role that i didn't for one minute doubt the genius of the REAL Chaplin and in fact only became a fan of the little tramp after seeing this Biopic, as though the missing pieces of Chaplins life had come together to complete the jigsaw. Downey JR carries the movie, it is hard to imagine anyone else in the role, he is the right build, height and of simmilar looks and even nails the accent down. He even does The Little Tramp so covincingly that i think that Chaplin himself would have been forced to admit how good he is. This could prove to be Downey JR's best work on screen, but i hope like many other of his admirers that things do go right for him,and he gets on the right track and he is good to himself in future. On a side note i definitely think that Robert was worthy of the Academy Award for best actor for this, but the BAFTA is more than Justified. Hopefully his role in the adaption of Denis Potter's The Singing Detective will be good enough for him to be recognised by the Academy. The only down side to the characterisation awarded to Robert Downey JR in the title role is that the other characters pale in significance. Admitedly it is nice to see the famous faces such as Kevin Kline as Douglas Fairbanks, Diane Lane, Penelope Anne Miller and the Late great John Thaw in a heart rendering cameo as Chaplins great influence Fred Karno. But their characters are so limited that the come a cross as essential but perhaps slightly surplus. More impressive and important are the likes of Dan Ackroyd in an hillarious cameo as Mack Sennet, and the interstingly cast Geraldine Chaplin as her own grandmother Hanna. The fact that Hannah Caplin was mentally ill and the effects it had on Charlie Chaplin are nicely hinted at but in large glossed over. Anthony Hopkins is, it must be said, wasted as the fictional George Hayden. It is however reassuring to see Hopkins, and he himself 15 or so years earlier might have made a good Chaplin himself. Paul Rhys, too is kept in the dark, wich is unfortunate because the character he plays, Chaplins brother sid, was quite a big cog in the Chaplin works [see Modern Times-joke]. The nicest other part is that of Hetty Kelly/Oona Chaplin, Chaplins first and last loves, played by Moira Kelly. Kelly's presence adds a nice touch of grace and gentleness to the movie. Perhaps the real failing of the movie is, like this review, it tries to pack to much in, and like i said this would have been better done as a TV Mini series, or even two movies. These minor quibbles asides, Chaplin boasts an enjoyably epic screenplay by Diana Hawkins, William Boyd, Bryan Forbes and the Legendary William Goldman, based on David Robinsons Chaplin-His Life and Art and My Autobiography by Chaplin Himself. The movie is tightly directed and edited, includes nice trick photography and is very professionaly and well acted, particularly y Robert Downey JR but everyone ivolved does well, no matter the merits of the characterisations. It also has one of the most beautiful, moving musical scores by John Barry, perhaps his best, sadly over looked of scores. If you havent seen the movie, i hope this review helps whet your appetite, because it is a very worthwhile worth seeing movie..........
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Intriguing look at Chaplin's life and early Hollywood
bill_golden14 October 2002
This is a great example of a movie I took a chance on one rainy Sunday at a theater in Charlotte, NC., and was highly rewarded with an intriguing look at the life of an early film star set against the background of early Hollywood. I had't heard much buzz about it and didn't really know much about Charlie Chaplin. Downey is amazing in his personification of Chaplin. If you want to expand your horizons and learn a little about the inside workings of the film industry from circa World War I thru the 50's, this award-winning movie comes highly recommended.
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9/10
The Best of All Hollywood Biographies
director161617 January 2001
"Chaplin" is an incredible film about one of the most incredible and controversial icons in Hollywood history. Robert Downey, Jr. is perfectly cast as Charlie Chaplin, and it is his brilliant performance which earned the Oscar nomination that he deserved and received. Richard Attenborough did a masterful job directing this masterpiece of biographical films. Two actors who are underrated for their performances are Paul Rhys (who played Sidney Chaplin), and Moria Kelly (who played both roles of Hetty Kelly and Oona O'Neil Chaplin). Kevin Kline is amazing as Douglas Fairbanks. There is one scene in the film where Douglas Fairbanks, knowing he is ill, looks at his reflection in a mirror on the bar. That is one example of the symbolism throughout the film by director Richard Attenborough that is astonishing. Robert Downey, Jr., plays off the great Sir Anthony Hopkins will ease. It is a wonder that with all of his personal problems in his relatively young life that Robert Downey, Jr. doesn't appreciate the opportunities that have been handed to him. There is incredible talent in this film - including a previously Oscar-winning director and actor (Attenborough and Hopkins, respectively) and a female actor who would win an Oscar for another film that same year of 1992 (Marisa Tomei). Even Dan Aykroyd is almost overlooked as silent comedy filmmaker Mack Sennett. Through "Chaplin" we realize that it was Mack Sennett who discovered Charlie Chaplin as well as other comedy greats at the beginning of Hollywood history. "Chaplin" is underrated and sometimes underappreciated, but it is a brilliant film that should be considered a classic when the time is appropriate.
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7/10
falls a little short of the mark
valleyjohn9 May 2011
When i was i was a kid and there was only three TV channels , i remember on weekends and school holidays they always used to show black and white comedies. Laurel & Hardy , Harold Lloyd and my personal favorites , Abbot & Costello were the main movies but there is no doubting who was the daddy of them all and that was Charlie Chaplin. Richard Attenborough directed this 1992 biographic movie of the famous Englishman and you would think , considering his previous movies that this would be fantastic. Sadly it falls a little short of the mark.

This is not a bad film at all it's just that i don't think it does Chaplin the justice he deserved. Robert Downy Jr is good , especially when he's playing a young Chaplin and the rest of the cast do a good job but i cant help but feel this film never really works. It's quite a dark film. Chaplin never looks happy and it's not until the end where he is excepting the Oscar do we really get to see a little bit what he was like on screen. The whole thing with him dictating to a biographer never works either and for me , this is Attenborough's biggest mistake. I would love to see someone have another go at making a film about Chaplin and give it a modern spin.

Finally , if you have never seen a Charlie Chaplin film , i urge you to do so. They are so much funnier than some of the so called comedies they churn out today.
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5/10
uninspired biography
Doogie D5 May 1999
Chaplin is a good subject and was a terrific filmmaker, but his story is not well served here. The movie limps along, Downey's excellent performance notwithstanding. The reporter as plot device -- well done in GANDHI -- is intrusive here, though it does show off Downey's range. One might hope for Kevin Brownlow to assemble a documentary for Chaplin even half as good as the stunning BUSTER KEATON: A HARD ACT TO FOLLOW. Until then, other sources will have to do.
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9/10
Fantastic Performance By Downey As Chaplin
ccthemovieman-124 April 2006
Wow, this is one of the finest acting jobs I have seen as Robert Downey Jr. portrays the famous Charlie Chaplin. His performance includes some of Chaplin's famous slapstick moves and Downey is tremendous at executing them.

To the film's credit ,it does show both the good and bad sides to this famous man. But it's definitely biased. Just check out how they portray J. Edgar Hoover, a man Hollywood loves to hate (along with any Conservative or Republican). Hoover is pictured as mean-spirited and nasty throughout, and is even blasted in the ending credits! His first speech at a dinner table, intended to show him in a negative actually shows him to be prophetic whether Tinseltown ever admits it or not.

Regarding Chaplin, if the film was the truth (that's always a big "if"), then it WAS a real miscarriage of justice to kick him out of the country for having a baby he didn't produce. Nevertheless, most of the film centers around his career and his wives, most of whom were very pretty with great figures.....but too young, most of them being teenagers!

Also shown nicely in the film are Chaplin's talent, his obsession with work, his great friendship with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. (Kevin Kline), the great films he produced and the sympathy he had with the American poor. On the other side, in addition to his pedophile instincts, one wonders why Chaplin never became an American citizen? They certainly did not help his cause.

The movie sports a big-name cast, with Kline probably providing the most likable role next to Downey. The women were very interesting: from Geraldine Chaplin playing Charlie's insane, pathetically-sad mother to beauties like Milla Jovovich, Diane Lane and Moria Kelly, the latter playing Chaplin's final and devoted wife "Oona."

Also in here are some big names: Anthony Hopkins, Dan Ackroyd, Penelope Ann Miller, Marissa Tomei, James Woods, Nancy Travis and Paul Rhys. They all help make this a memorable biography. It's beautifully filmed with a number of stunning scenes and also has a classy soundtrack. The ending is manipulative, but it works. It always brings a tear to my eye.

I liked what they did at the end with the small biographies of all the leading characters and visually showing who played each one. I wish all films did that.
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2/10
Utter waste of time
stevebar5511 March 2011
A disappointing flat biopic, given that there is so much interesting material about Chaplin's professional and private life. Richard Attenborough obviously reveres Chaplin's artistry as a performer but fails miserably to show this in the film. The various stages of his life are joined by the artificial device of him talking to a publisher (as he writes his autobiography) and especially why he fails to mention certain key aspects of his life. It doesn't work and the sections of film seem strangely disjointed and fail to conjoin into a whole. Apart from a wonderful performance from Robert Downey as Chaplin himself, the rest is a mess and worst of all the film is plain BORING! I suggest viewers would be better off either reading a biography of Chaplin's life or better still go back to the source material and watch his original films ( I recommend City Lights & The Gold Rush).
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5/10
More cinema, less data...
RResende5 September 2007
The IMDb trivia for Attenborough states regarding his cinematic thinking states that: "Philosophies include believing in content as opposed to style and sincerity rather than intelligence."

Sometimes these things work in his films, but the fact is that in art, sincerity is almost always obtained through intelligence, and honesty has little to do with truth. Chaplin knew it, so none of his films are "true" in a strict sense of the word, but all of them are above all honest. This why, all and all, i don't quite enjoyed this film: because it failed to reach the "content" of Chaplin's work. Attenborough is, nevertheless, very competent, and so is his camera work, many times quite interesting (though in these concerns, as well as editing, watch his bright A bridge too far), and that very aspect makes this partially worth the time.

"-what do we do? -We smile"

For me, Chaplin is one of the synonyms for emotion in cinema. Films become part of people's lives. Many get into those lives bended by context, which means, the ones people had the opportunity (good or bad luck) to watch. Chaplin got into my life quite early and, for a long time, i never understood exactly what he did, i don't remember in my childhood watching a full film of his, but many excerpts are part of my visual memories (chaplin for children). Growing up and understanding how all the drama, all the emotion (beyond the "funny") exists in his cinema was a true revelation to me and a gate into cinema as an art. the "clown effect", the tramp always smiling is always capable of showing the beautiful and the horrible, the dark and the shiny, dark in what it shows, shiny in what it comes to provoke. This is humanism in cinema, in my personal thoughts. From what I know, Chaplin is at the top of those who (tried to) master this.

In the particular film, emotion is left to the end; which is nevertheless fully made after cinema paradiso. But its strenght is there because it simply displays Chaplin's films. The most successful option here, to my view, would have been to bring out "content" instead of "facts". So, back to the citation from IMDb's trivia, what i find here is a different notion of "content" (different than my own) which, for Attenborough, ended up as a collection (that i would call a little bit dull) of facts, making cinema secondary. In the movie Chaplin says "if you want to know me, watch my movies". That would be the key

Nevertheless, Downey Jr is very very strong here and his physical acting is truly remarkable.

Meanwhile, as a biographical movie", my personal choice still goes to the very recent and relatively unknown "life and death of Peter Sellers" for it reaches much more into the soul of the artist.

My evaluation: 2/5 overall a failure, even though it's not bad to watch (mainly due to Downey's Jr acting and some camera work)

http://www.7eyes.wordpress.com
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Noisy Where It Should have Been Silent
tedg14 June 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

Chaplin is one of a half dozen masters who invented film and therefore changed humanity through their dreams. His genius was one of visual abstraction -- the humor was just a strategy to engage the audience. Orson Welles thought `City Lights' the most important film ever made, and by that I think he meant the first overtly self-referential master manipulation of the medium.

Making a film _about_ Chaplin has got to be one of the sweetest, most ineluctable notions ever. One would presume that such a film would use `Limelight' as a conceptual foundation. But since modern tastes want the raw personalities and since Chaplin's energies were at root sexual, one would expect a film that focuses on abstractions from sex as the mechanism for mass engagement. One would expect us to to see and understand how his energies in life were transmuted by much effort and reflection into related energies on the screen. One would expect us to see a similar struggle in the commitment from Attenborough.

Alas, Attenborough is more Sennett than Chaplin, someone with skills by exposure but who lacks passion and intellect. Instead, we get the self-reference from an unexpected source: Downey. He is not allowed to be a sexual being here, and incidentally neither are the women in the parade of pulchritude he thrashes through: they are here cast as demure, models, instead of directly animal beings -- more film beings than magnets for Chaplin's force.

Bereft of the sexual drive, Downey is forced to give us an internal being who progressively complicates his thoughts on their way to physicality, someone who eventually spends years on projects that previously took days. He already was seriously addicted to drugs here, and one can see the marvelous resonance of internal torture of Downey overlain on Chaplin. A double tragedy unfolds before our eyes (and amazingly behind Attenborough's back).

Attenborough does deal honestly with the personal vendetta of Hoover and the national embarrassment of the exile. But little context is established for how overt, intense and ambiguous was the struggle among Hollywood intellectuals and between them and the brutality of Washington and press associates. (We need to have a film about how close Hoover brought America to revolution.) What we get instead is a focus on his poverty, brother's jewishness and mother's insanity. I think that is a mistake.

Incidentally, one could spend time in worse ways than studying how the comic timing of films was invented, and how it has been both copied and evolved at the same time. Watch Chaplin. Then watch Downey doing Chaplin. He does an honest job, placing his Chaplin in Chaplin's time, not our own, Then watch Depp do Downey doing Chaplin (`Benny and Joon') but placed in the context of evolved notions of today's physical timing. Its more immediate, tighter.
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7/10
Brilliant central performance that carries the film
intelearts4 January 2008
For my money this is one of the weakest of Attenborough's catalogues.

It does however have a HUGE saving grace in Robert Downey Jr who as Chaplin the star is simply brilliant.

I personally disliked the plot device of Anthony Hopkins as Chaplin's biographer and found it quite irritating.

While all performances are solid, especially Kevin Kline if you see the Thief of Bagdad then watch this he really does capture something of Fairbanks charisma and energy, the film is strangely the same: another girl (Literally often) appears, disappears etc; it became almost formulaic after a while.

Great in its scope, and the sets, attention to detail etc; are good - just didn't me the first time I saw it or this time - perhaps tellingly the real Chaplin with the Kid at the end is magnificent.

Definitely worth watching for Downey's tip-top performance as the young Chaplin, but the rest is too linear and flat to make a great film.
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3/10
Weak biography
Peter Grunbaum15 June 2009
I don't know why fictional biographies turn out so badly. Bruce Lee, Mozart and the Doors movies were also awful when it came to fictional biographies. It turns out that one would have gained a lot more true knowledge from just watching a solid documentary about these people. The problem with the Chaplin movie is that it is too sentimental and weak. Obviously the real Chaplin was no where near the way he is portrayed in this film. In the best case, this movie is some kind of fairy-tale build on the life of a real character. I would recommend a more truthful rendition of history such as the one employed in Tom Cruise's new movie about the assassination of Hitler: Operation Valkyrie. Chaplin shows no loyalty whatsoever to the person or his movies. Nor does it have any psychological or historical understanding. If one wants to watch a weak Disney-like rendition of a very interesting person and legend in movie science then watch this extremely stupid, weak and boring movie.
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5/10
Overbloated
Hancock_the_Superb25 January 2006
When you make a biography of a historical figure, you have to realize that, no matter how interesting or complex their life is, you can only put so much in. Some writers/directors are able to edit the life story of a person down to two hours or less ("The Desert Fox" and most old Warner Brothers' biopics being good examples of this). When this is too difficult, often (as in the case of "Patton" and "Lawrence of Arabia") the film will focus on a specific important period of the character's life. "Chaplin" tries to focus on all of Chaplin's life over the course of a two and a half hour movie, and fails miserably.

Well, that isn't fair. I shouldn't say it's a complete failure. In terms of production values, it does a great job of capturing the time period portrayed - the '20s and '30s, when cinema was first turning from a novelty into the art form and indispensible entertainment medium it is today. Robert Downey, Jr. does a fantastic job as Chaplin, and deserves all the credit he has gotten for his performance.

But the fact is, Chaplin's life is too complex and multi-faceted to fit into a two-and-a-half hour film - maybe even into a four hour epic, like "Lawrence of Arabia". Most of the major events and people and in his life are barely touched upon before the film moves on. Admittedly, they pretty much have to, the way the film is set up. But innumerable should-be-important characters are scuttled after only a few minutes of screen time.

The supporting cast is a huge rogue's gallery of A- and B-list stars in cameos and supporting roles, with very mixed results. The best are Geraldine Chaplin, ingeniously cast as her own grandmother; Kevin Dunn as J. Edgar Hoover (though IMO his character was given perhaps too prominent of a part); Kevin Kline as Douglas Fairbanks; and Dan Ankroyd as the director who first made Chaplin a star. The rest of the cast is, as said above, a riot of cameo appearances, with actors like Diane Lane, Marisa Tomei, and James Woods (to name a few of the more prominent examples) on screen just long enough for the viewer to say, "Hey, it's -!" - which, needless to say, gets annoying after awhile. Anthony Hopkins' author character in particular is a waste of that fine actor's talent. And while it's amusing to see a teenage Milla Jovovich and pre-"X-Files" David Duchovny before they became famous, they're certainly not enough to watch the movie for. If this were just the case for one or two characters, it would be no problem, but there are undoubtedly going to be problems when pretty much EVERY FRICKIN' CHARACTER falls under such a category.

As a film, "Chaplin" is hit or miss. It's got a number of good elements - Attenborough's great direction, Downey's fine performance, and a few of the more prominent supporting characters - but unfortunately tries to cram too much into 143 minutes. I'd suggest checking it out, but don't expect a masterpiece.

5/10
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6/10
Emotional, wonderfully performed but ultimately flawed biopic
Nobody-279 April 2013
Very rarely does a film make me feel ambivalent as this one. I loved it for Chaplin, for performances, accurate scenes, but disliked it for its generally dark tone, missed details, and portrayal of Chaplin as an angry, distant ego-centric.

Seeing Robert Downey Jr. not only become Chaplin, but perform his stunts, little quirks and fun parts with Chaplin's gentleness and force sometimes, was a revelation.

I could go on and on about Robert Downey Jr. If you are like me, and have managed to not see this film all these years, then do so, if nothing, just for his performance. It is worth it.

Other actors were fantastic too, and there is quite a list of big names who performed wonderfully well: Kevin Klein (as Douglas Fairbanks), Anthony Hopkins, Marisa Tomei, Dan Aykroyd, Geraldine Chaplin (portraying her own grandmother, and what a portrayal!) etc.

Photography, sets, costumes, everything was just as one would hope it would be in a biopic about such an important artist as Chaplin. I also liked that many true events were accurately portrayed in the film. The attention to visual detail was refreshing. I wish I could say the same of the story though.

Anyone who read a bit about Chaplin knows what an emotional roller-coaster his life has been. Roller coaster means "highs" and "lows". In "Chaplin" we only get the "lows".

This is further made worse by the gimmicky addition of a biographer who is talking to Chaplin about his auto-biography just as we have immersed ourselves into the story, making sure that we are quickly kicked out of it. Whatever emotional connection is established is quickly lost. The only thing that scenes with the biographer do is retard the story and kill the film.

His rise from slums of east London to the king of Hollywood was incredible in reality, yet entirely missed in this film. He becomes a millionaire, just like that. In one scene he is a vaudeville actor working for peanuts, in another he comes to Hollywood and gets paid a little more, and then it seems that everyone knows about him, without our ever seeing how this happened. Even his homecoming, to a crowded station in London was scaled down: truth was that the euphoria was greater even than the one that Beatles experienced. Chaplin was so famous and well liked all over the world that even Hitler, who hated Chaplin, grew Chaplin's mustache to try and be more likable.

This overall dark story which intentionally skips the highs and focuses on lows, interrupted by fictitious biographer and old Chaplin (who add nothing of value anyway), is what makes this film fall flat on its face. It did not help that many important points in the film while accurate were portrayed with key pieces missing: for instance his theater performance was noticed by a Hollywood bigwig who proceeded to offer him a job via a telegram, with his name misspelled as "Charlie Chapman"... We never see any of that. He just gets a telegram with the job offer, out of the blue.

This is unfortunate, as one can easily find tons of material about Chaplin that could be added to show what a blast he had; and that it was all result of hard work, not dumb luck. Consider some of these facts:

  • When he started shooting "The Great Dictator" British government told him that they would ban his film due to policy of appeasement. He shot the film anyway. By the time Chaplin finished it, Hitler attacked Britain, and appeasement policy was reversed, making Chaplin's film more than welcome over night.


  • Chaplin was never really denied entrance to the US. He heard through his connections that Hoover was going after him in a big way, and that he would be persecuted more and more and that his work visa would not be renewed. He decided to just leave the country before anything more serious happened to him. While in NY, mere hours prior to his departure, he decided to phone Richard Avedon and offer to sit in his studio for a portrait. Avedon thought it was a prank call.


  • The Lita Grey affair cost Chaplin in more ways than one. During the trial his hair turned entirely white, even though he was only 37 at the time.


  • It is said that Chaplin owned the famous Culver hotel in Culver City, which he lost to John Wayne in a poker game, who then proceeded to donate it for good cause... Chaplin was not all work and obsession, he was a "clown" as he said it himself many times.


Those are just some examples, but the biggest missing point is failure to portray his rise from obscurity to stardom, and how great that was, especially in those times. Even more importantly, his influence on Hollywood and film as an art form, and his big heart was entirely missed. I don't even know if most viewers truly got it that it was him and Mary Pickford that founded United Artists Studio (D. Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith were just investors). He is almost portrayed as an egomaniac, when in reality, he was anything but that. He kept helping and even financially supporting fellow actors in Hollywood even after he moved to Switzerland, that's who Chaplin really was.

To portray the funniest, most creative filmmaker in such dark tones while missing to connect the dots is a failure of this film. His life was all about overcoming, yet from "Chaplin" we are led to believe that he was a miserable character.

Chaplin's life has a lot more to offer the viewer, and it would be a joy to see his life story given a better treatment on the big screen.
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7/10
Downey Shines When Film Doesn't
LostHighway10127 September 2002
Forget what you may have heard about 1992's "Chaplin" being a tabloid approach to the life of Charles Spencer Chaplin's. It does not focus on Chaplin's body of work as much as his turbulent personal and love life, which seems to turn most viewers off. Fortunately, its lead extracts nothing but magic from the material.

Robert Downey, Jr. gives an Acadamy Award-nominated performance with spot-on physical pantomime. He gracefully handles the difficult task of recreating Chaplin's physical art from his adolescence through his elderly exile in Switzerland. He plays him as a tortured bad boy and somehow makes the audience (like the film's director) turn a blind eye to the more scandalous aspects of Chaplin.

Downey skillfully navigates director Richard Attenborough's loving yet ambivalent handling of Chaplin's scandals. Attenborough was lucky enough to have also a brilliant score by John Barry and a brawny supporting cast, because the script is undeniably overwrought and unfocused. Downey Jr. makes a shallow handling of the Chaplin story into a highly-watchable experience. With a better script this could have been gold.
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4/10
Disappointing
Manuel Rivera17 November 2001
I heard so much about this movie before I saw it that I was really disappointed when the time came. The only reason I gave it a 4 out of 10 instead of a worse note, is Robert Downey's excellent job and - yeah, even Geraldine Chaplin's portrait of her insane grandmother. But the rest... how uninspired is everything! Hopkins' fictional character is absolutely pointless and pretentious, the portraits of Chaplin's women are so superficial as the historical content (the FBI in a 30years-permanent paranoic attitude towards the dangerous tramp, huuh...), all the details picked up from Chaplin's autobiography are or unreflected or badly told (p. g. the scene where the mother says: "If you only had brought me a cup of tea" - you DON'T understand this if you haven't read the book, and it loses all is meaning, 'cause there is a mix of guilt, fear and love in the feelings of the boy that is almost lost in the scene and the film)... No, this is not a well-told movie. Apart from the fact that it offers no deeper relection on what it IS to be a comedian or a genius. Boring. The best part is, without the shadow of a doubt, the final part where we have the possibility to see original Chaplin-film-scenes. That, indeed, could be a merit of this movie: it makes you want to watch the true Chaplin.
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Chaplin, and his unending string of pretty girls.
TxMike7 October 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Chaplin, the movie, takes a lot of patience. At 2 hours 20 minutes, and not always moving along at a brisk pace, it is easy to get bored, unless you really want to know about this icon of the American film industry, Charles Chaplin, the transplanted then exiled Brit. Written in is a fictional character, George (Anthony Hopkins), who is interviewing Chaplin at his home in Switzerland during the twilight years. The film covers about 70 years of his life, from a young boy of about 5 or 6 who entertains the audience after his mom was booed off the stage, to his special honor at the Academy awards in the 70s. In between we see his genius in film, and his troubles caused primarily by his womanizing instincts, apparently not able to resist a young and beautiful girl, even marrying two or three different teenagers. But his biggest nemesis turned out to be J Edgar Hoover who was successful preventing his reentry to the USA after Chaplin ;left in 1952 for a visit to England. All because of the witchhunt for Communists.

SPOILERS - George has a list with him, of items he must ask Chaplin. Near the end we find out that it is part of trying to see if Charlie was afflicted with the same thread of insanity suffered by both his mother and grandmother. Chaplin was not, and simply was a flawed genius of a man who always had sex on his mind when not working. A perfectionist who labored for days, weeks, months to get the editing of a film just right. One of his wives (Diane Lane) asks, "Is this what cause all the others to leave?" He answered, "Maybe, you'll have to ask them." Although we know him as a funny man, he was very hard to get along with, partly because of his low tolerance for what he thought we incompetents or those with foolish ideas. he could not turn his head, he preferred confrontation. I can relate.

Good movie, semi-autobiographical, I rate "8" of 10.
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An interesting film but it fails to create an emotional story or to get to the heart of the subject as a person
bob the moo2 May 2005
When he first ran onto a music hall stage to replace his faltering mother, Charles Chaplin was a natural entertainer who seemed to be able to captivate the audience. With his mother's failing health, he is forced to put her in a home and sets out on tour in America. Discovering moving pictures for the first time, Chaplin jumps at the chance to work in them himself. Quickly he has made his name and, with his brother as manager, gets more power and more money. However like Biggie said, more money brings more problems and Chaplin's life off-screen is not as amusing as it is on.

Biopics are difficult to get right and Chaplin is an example of one that somehow fails to have that hook necessary to really make for a great film rather than just a recounting of the past. By taking a sweeping view over his whole life the film does the latter pretty well but causes the weaknesses that stop it hitting the former as well as it needed to. This means it is still an interesting film to watch but yet somehow the characters are not totally there and the emotional involvement is strangely lacking. Although the film details the rather seedier side of Chaplin's relationships (the fact they are often underage) it never does it in a judgemental way and it gives him a rather easy ride – although perhaps the film was just conveying Hollywood's acceptance of such tastes (hence Polanski is still given awards even though he cannot come onto American soil) but I would have liked a bit more of questioning of him than just mentioning it. This is really what is missing – emotion. The old chestnut of flashbacks from an old man works to produce a story but doesn't help make a person; I was happy with the rough facts and the historical context it gives to some of Chaplin's films but I never felt much about him as a person.

Part of the problem with this is Downey Jnr himself. Although he gets the mannerisms and looks pretty well, he fails to capture the sadness behind the comedy – sure he acts out the drama but it fails to really flow through him in the way that it would come through the man himself in his films. That said, it is still a good performance and this failing is not his problem. The support cast are all OK but again none really produce character depth and people, merely delivering actions. However it is still hard to ignore a cast that includes Aykroyd, Thaw, Tomei, Miller, Jovovich, Lane and Hopkins.

Overall this is an interesting film but one that fails to really engage on an emotional level. The facts are all laid out in such a way that I felt I learnt from it but I didn't think it actually got to the heart of the man. At times this works but at other times the lack of heart makes the subject feel distant and quite plodding. Worth seeing if you have an interest in Chaplin but if you already know the facts or just don't care about him then it is unlikely you'll get much from this.
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7/10
Read a decent biography if you want the life story; watch the film if you want snippets of it brought to life
SnorrSm198928 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
It may appear superfluous to remark that more than a mere 143 minutes are required for if the life of Charles Chaplin is to be dramatized successfully on film. Chaplin, who passed away at the age of eighty-eight, not only witnessed and experienced the enormous changes which took place during the twentieth century, both in cultural, sociological and technological ways, but he himself actually turned out to become one of the most influential personalities of his own time. Director Richard Attenborough, no doubt, understood this when he set out to make the film CHAPLIN, having been a huge fan of the comedian since childhood. However, although responsible for a reported amount of four hours of footage, Attenborough was seemingly forced to cut the film down considerably. As a result, the finished film is a mixed experience; but there certainly are good things to be found in it, as well.

Inevitably, many candidates turned up with the hope of playing Chaplin, but the one that apparently possessed "that special something," was a young Robert Downey, Jr. His performance has received unanimous praise through the years, and made him an Academy Award nomination. Indeed, there is no doubt that Downey did a phenomenal job; I cannot imagine anyone doing it better than him. Having been trained by first-rate pantomimist Dan Kamin, Downey nails the character of the Tramp quite well; and he deserves all possible praise for handling the many emotional situations in Chaplin's life so convincingly. Yet, I must admit that to me personally, Downey doesn't really resemble Chaplin, certainly not physically and his voice is so distinctively different that it somewhat affects the credibility of his general appearance in the film as well. I don't mean these words to be insults, because as said, I can't think of anyone doing it better than him; but I don't quite believe he truly IS Charlie Chaplin, in the same way that I may be fooled to believe that Ben Kingsley truly IS Ghandi.

The rest of the cast is generally excellent; particularly Chaplin's eldest daughter Geraldine delivers a convincing, sensitive portrayal of her own grandmother (and also a quite distressing one, considering the pain this poor woman had to suffer in her life). Dan Aykord's portrayal of producer Mack Sennett (the one who first hired Chaplin in films) may seem to be a caricature, but this is not necessarily in conflict with how many of Sennett's associates remembered the man; Aykord behaves just the way I would've expected Sennett to do, based on interviews I've read with the man and his autobiography. Kevin Kline is also worthy of great praise, bringing silent era playboy Douglas Fairbanks to life in a charming performance. One reason why several of the portrayals of Chaplin's associates work so well, may be that they are surrounded by such authentic sets; Geraldine Chaplin expressed in an interview that a shock came over her as she witnessed her father's studio being rebuilt, "exactly as it was." No less successfully have the home quarters of Chaplin's childhood, in the slums of the late-Victorian era, been reconstructed.

Unfortunately, all these rewarding aspects of the film are somewhat haltered by the feeling that they could have been used to greater effect, and more thoroughly, than what we see in the finished film. Clearly, the film has suffered from the large cuts which Attenborough was forced to make, as there is a nail thin structure to talk about; several of the incidents that occur in the film would, I imagine, be difficult to understand to anyone not that familiar with the life of Chaplin. Much like the more recent film about Nelson Mandela and the circumstances around Apartheid, GOODBYE, BAFANA, we are, with CHAPLIN, given an opportunity to see the most central aspects of the life of a famous person being brought to life with authenticity, but without the length required in order to analyze or even fairly explain these aspects. The scene changes from one period of Chaplin's life to another without really exploring any of them, and leaving out many high-points of his life and career; for instance, Chaplin's making of the Mutual-films, which many consider to be his noblest work, is barely referred to. Furthermore, the film suffers from factual errors, some of which may be forgiven for the sake of dramatic effect, but they are also often annoying as many viewers are likely to take his film thoroughly as fact. For instance, when Chaplin receives a telegram from the Keystone studio, inviting him to join the medium of films, he appears quite amazed; in his autobiography, Chaplin admitted that he had been rather disappointed with the telegram, as the Keystone-films had not impressed him. Most disturbing of all is how certain characters are portrayed, particularly Mabel Normand and Chaplin's brother Sydney. Mabel and Chaplin did have a fight at a set early on, but what is not mentioned in the film is that they reconciled shortly afterwards, and remained friends thereafter. In the film, Mabel comes across as quite unsympathetic, which is not synonymous with the sweet- natured (and talented) girl most of her associates remembered. Even more disturbing is how Sydney Chaplin is presented; Sydney was generally very supportive of Charlie and his artistic decisions, yet this film claims otherwise. Nothing I've read about Chaplin (and I've done my research through the years) indicates that Sydney ever tried to convince his brother not to make THE GREAT DICTATOR.

Despite several short-comings, CHAPLIN is worth to watch due to some memorable performances, as well as the many handsome, authentic sets. And, in case I forgot to mention it, the musical score by John Barry is magnificent, beautiful beyond the spoken word, among my favorite soundtracks of all time. However, to anyone seriously interested in Chaplin, I'd rather recommend David Robinson's highly informative biography on the man (or the comedian's own memoirs), or to watch Kevin Brownlow and David Gill's brilliant documentary UNKNOWN CHAPLIN.
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7/10
The life and work of Charles Chaplin
Angelus29 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The film shows Chaplins life in flashbacks as he tells the story of his life to a journalist. Robert Downey jr portrays the cinematic icon that is Charlie Chaplin; where the audience sees the trials and tribulations he faced. The film mostly captures the 'tortured-artist' and Chaplin embodies this; Downey does a fantastic job in portraying a man who has almost lost something; it great to see Downey re-enact scenes from Chaplin's movies; the film also captures his fight against the corrupt politicians. The supporting cast is great but it is truly Downey who shines in this role.....The ending is a tear jerker when Charles watches the audience laugh at his work.....
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