Posts tagged ‘Monsieur Verdoux’

April 2, 2012

City Lights (1931 – DVD)

“I’m not acting, almost apologetic, standing outside myself and looking, it’s a beautiful scene, beautiful, and because it isn’t over-acted”

Next in my Charlie Chaplin boxset is 1931’s ‘City Lights’ which was perhaps Chaplin’s own favourite film, and it was also Orson Welles’ favourite and is named as Sight & Sound Magazine’s 2nd greatest film ever.  I found it to be in the mould of Chaplin’s beautiful and emotional, heart-warming film ‘The Kid’.  ‘City Lights’s plot has two halves which Chaplin cunningly weaves together into one seemless narrative.

One side features Chaplin’s Tramp befriending a drunken and suicidal millionaire, although when he sobers back up he is less than pleased to see the company he’s been keeping.  One of the funniest parts of this scenario is the look of disapproval and anger on the face of the millionaire’s Valet who is forced to follow his master’s drink sodden whims and treat the Tramp as an honoured guest.  Many sparkling comic vignettes follow, the greatest being when in an eating scene The Tramp accidentally chews the streamers hanging from the ceiling along with his spaghetti.

The other side is a sweet and tender romance between The Tramp and a poor blind flower seller that he meets.  Unfortunately, not being able to see his ragged clothes, she mistakes him for a rich man who he continues to pretend to be, making use of his millionaire friend in order to impress her.  He later learns she is to evicted, so in the guise of the rich gentleman he rashly promises to pay her rent and also pay for an expensive eye operation.  This leads him into a series of scrapes as he fights to get the money including a hilarious rigged boxing match.  The final scene between  the flower seller and The Tramp is utterly heartbreaking.  Naturally I respect Orson’s opinion, but I wouldn’t say this was my favourite film, however I would say it was Chaplin’s best early Silent movie (That I’ve watched so far) although I still think 1947’s Talkie ‘Monsieur Verdoux’ is his best film overall.

You can watch the full film on YouTube below:

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March 6, 2012

Monsieur Verdoux (1947 – DVD)

“Wars, conflict, it’s all business. One murder makes a villain, millions a hero. Numbers sanctify my good fellow”

I’ve long considered Ealing’s ashen-black 1949 comedy ‘Kind Hearts & Coronets’ as being uniquely ahead of it’s time. But the third film I’ve watched from my Charlie Chaplin box set is 1947’s ‘Monsieur Verdoux’ and it approaches serial Murder from much the same Comedic angle (Of course two years earlier!). The story is by Orson Welles and is greatly inspired by the real-life French wife-killer Henri Désiré Landru. Welles pitched the idea to Chaplin but auteur that he was, Chaplin didn’t wish to be directed by someone else so he bought the idea and resolved to produce, compose, write, act and direct it himself.

Chaplin’s portrayal of Verdoux is extraordinary, as he makes a man who marries and murders rich women so sympathetic. He floats around like a camp peacock lavishing compliments and flowers on his conquests.  But with his wheelchair bound first wife he is solemn and loving, it’s to provide for her that he does the killing.  It’s made clear in several scenes that he originally lost all his money in the great depression, and perhaps lost a little of his sanity too.  In the second half of the film he meets Martha Raye’s brash, vulgar widower who is considerably less polite and pliant than Verdoux’s other victims and is more than a match for him.

‘Monsieur Verdoux’ bombed when it was originally released, which may have been down to its dark tone, the controversial political sentiments of its final act or Chaplin’s growing persecution under the rise of McCarthyism.  Whatever the reason it was shear madness, as this is simply one of most ingenious films I’ve ever seen.  It remains to be seen if anything else in my Chaplin box set can rival it.  I think I might watch 1931’s ‘City Lights’ next.