When my partner first told me that he loved Charlie Chaplin, I thought maybe he was joking or that he was one of those people who really, really liked clowns and ferris wheels.
Although we are both pseudo film snobs, he alone has long loved this iconic, badass artist. I didn’t know anything about Chaplin except that he had big shoes, seemingly one change of clothing and was played by Robert Downey Jr. (who used the opportunity to jump-start his career). I think that’s how most people in the US remember Charlie Chaplin, too, and that’s why I’m writing this post.
Chaplin is really famous abroad, but was pushed into the shadow of American consciousness when he was banned from the US during the McCarthy ‘red scare‘ era. We could really use a bit of his influence right now in the States, though.
It’s election season, and—head in hands—we’re at a loss for what to do or even how to think about the way our country runs anymore.
Talking politics means preaching to the choir, a.k.a. mental masturbation, creating awkward silence or even losing friendships. There’s quite a bit of conflict in the US right now.
Yet with such a cushy middle class, people seem paralyzed by what they don’t want to lose and thus, moved only to the point of complacency. The fundamentals of human welfare are buried beneath such inertia. Indeed, it’s become best to laugh it all off.
Although actors today aren’t deported or jailed for speaking their mind, they only intermittently do (John Stewart and Co. notwithstanding—see above—preaching to choir).
Back in the Red Scare days, consequences for expressing one’s opinion about politics were dire, yet Chaplin, in the height of his career, and as a part of his very nature, shared his pure, sharp perspective. His performances ride, effortlessly, organically, along a wave of truth and express it with cunning perfection.
Check out this timeless speech from The Great Dictator:
In terms of film, Modern Times (written, directed and with a musical score by Chaplin himself) really hit me as an example of untainted and fearless cinema. Chaplin’s work is naturally infused with a nutritious message of living an unashamed, authentic life, no matter the circumstances.
His endearing body language, subtle genius and level of detachment had me thinking for days. Silent, gorgeous and scoring a perfect 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, this movie is an easy look at the always modern, human tendencies:
We keep trying to demote eating to a utilitarian activity, but I don’t think fast food gets more pathetic than this.
How far are any of us from the edge of our lives?
Trouble happens to the best of us…get what you can out of it.
The mind can let in everything that’s wrong, but a positive outlook is a shift that a good friend will help you make.
*Note: I am writing this because this actor’s work and life touched me deeply and not because I am receiving any compensation, from anyone, to promote it.
Editor: Andrea B.
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