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Archive for October 4th, 2019

by Sam Juliano

He is in my carefully considered opinion the greatest versatile genius the cinema has ever produced, and on a list of my favorites may well rank as my top choice, (depending on what day of the week I am asked the question. Ingmar Bergman is the one who seems to alternate with him, but both Yasujiro Ozu and Robert Bresson and even Carl Dreyer are with them at the pinnacle) No film artist has engaged me as thoroughly, no comic has made me laugh as much, no humanist has brought more tears, no technical genius -not even Keaton- has caused me to marvel just how much acrobatic brilliance can be generated by a single person. He was the consummate genius, writing and directing his films, serving as the main star, and to boot, writing his own music, some of which includes some of the finest compositions of the century. Michael Jackson’s favorite ‘song’ of all time is “Smile” from Modern Times, and the overwhelming poignancy of the music he wrote for the final flower girl scene in City Lights (his greatest film across the board) is the perfect embodiment of theme expressed in music. His physical agility, his astute understanding of the human condition, and his uncanny sense of timing all are part of this Shakespeare of film, the single man who set the standard that has not subsequently been equaled.  If by now the name of Charles Spencer Chaplin has not been figured, well then the reader is from another planet.

Chaplin is the subject of some of the best biographies, and the documentary Unknown Chaplin is one of the greatest appraisals of a single director ever produced. No American film artist has been afforded the stature and adoration he has enjoyed abroad, and none match the sheer passion his visage has engendered. City Lights is probably my personal favorite film of all-time, and the single one that would accompany me to a desert island if I were limited to just a single choice.  Chaplin wrote his own autobiography and has been toasted worldwide by kings and presidents, some of the greatest literary figures, and his life has been the subject of more sustained interest for both the layman and the scholar, the upper and the lower classes and a wide range of admirers ranging from young kids to the elderly.  His influence was enormous, his personality infectious, and his success complete on every level.  He was lauded for his business sense and known for his frugality, and his canon continues today to exert an enormous influence on new filmmakers and those who value the film as an art form.  His personal life was a fishbowl even after the move to Switzerland; his marriage to Oona O’Neill -the daughter of American playwright Eugene O’Neill- despite their 36 year age difference caused a near scandal and cost Oona any further relations with her father, and the subsequent communist witch hunts eventually forced Chaplin to move to Europe. (more…)

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