Feb 4, 2008

Hindu write up by Pankaja Srinivasan on Chaplin's documentary screening

A walk with the tramp

As part of Konangal’s series on famous documentaries, it was Charlie Chaplin’s turn

It’s hard to believe. But once there was a world without Charlie Chaplin… These are the opening words of Richard Schickle’s documentary, Charlie: The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin, that provides a ringside view to the winsome tramp’s real life, warts and all.

Charlie the kid

Chaplin’s music hall beginnings, his difficult childhood — with a father who was never around and a beloved mother who was institutionalised when he was still a lad. (Some of that heartbreak is seen in The Kid, where the little boy is separated from him).

Chaplin incorporated a lot from his real life into his films. His uncle’s pub, East Street, London where he grew up, characters his mom would imitate to amuse him ...all found way into his films.

It was exciting times Chaplin lived in. World War 1, and plenty happening.

He took a pot shot at ideologies, people, society and everything else in between.

And did it all as the slightly befuddled tramp who wandered in and out of situations over which he had no control.

Classic scenes

There are snippets from classics such as The Kid, Modern Times, The Great Dictator, Limelight, etc.

Chaplin’s friends, admirers and colleagues (Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Marcel Marceau, Richard Attenborough, Robert Downey Junior who played Charlie in Attenborough’s Chaplin) speak about him. So do his sons and daughter (actress Geraldine Chaplin). We learn of Chaplin’s admiration for Gandhi, his run in with authority, and his refusal to conform.

Warts and all

We are told of his unsavoury relationships with women as young as 16 or even younger, his many marriages, messy divorces, and the paternity suits. Being sympathetic to the communists, he was a target of witch hunts. But, he held his own.

When he was informed on his way to England that he would not be allowed to re-enter America this is what he is supposed to have disdainfully said.

“I have no further use for America. I wouldn’t go back there if Jesus Christ was president!” Chaplin spent his last years in Switzerland (there is footage of him there as he plays, play-acts and clowns around with his family).

An appeal

Konangal urges film buffs to help it promote good cinema. It plans plenty of retrospectives, workshops and outreach programmes. For details visit Web:http://konangalfilmsociety.blogspot.com or call 0422-4376226/9443039630


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