Chaplin festival at MAT

Restored versions of some of this films show career highlights

It has been just over 40 years since Charlie Chaplin passed away at age 88, but his best work is much older. Some of his classic short films are now 100 years old. His last big hit was in 1940.

Kino MAT, the smallest cinema in the country, will have a retrospective of five films plus a set of shorts, all of which have been digitally restored.

The festival starts Feb. 1 with Modern Times, one of this best-respected works. The 1936 film is almost silent, with a musical score, some singing and sound effects, but no dialogue. The film shows Chaplin’s Tramp getting caught up in the growing automation that is displacing workers during the Great Depression. It has a 100 percent rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. The film was a huge hit in France, with Jean-Paul Sartre and his fellow writers naming their magazine for it.

Next up on Feb. 2 is The Circus, made in 1928, was one of the biggest box office successes of the late silent era. Chaplin’s Tramp gets caught up in a circus, where his unplanned antics become the hit of the show. The film had a troubled production with a damaged negative, a studio fire, and costly divorce all delaying the release of the film. Chaplin received a special Academy Award for writing, acting, directing and producing the film.

On Feb. 3, Chaplin’s most political film is screened. The Great Dictator, released in 1940, was Chaplin’s first fully sound film. He parodies Adolf Hitler, as a character named Adenoid Hynkel, and condemns the rise of fascism in Europe. The film, nominated for five Academy Awards, remains topical today. In the 1960s, Chaplin said he would not have made the comedy if he had known the true extent of what the Nazis were doing.

The screen lights up Feb. 4 with City Lights, a semi-silent film from 1931. Again, Chaplin uses recorded music and sound effects but no dialogue. The tale is a classic bittersweet romance with a blind girl, Chaplin’s Tramp and an erratic millionaire. Sight and Sound magazine in 1952 named it the second best film of all time. By 2002, it has slipped to number 45 on the magazine’s list.

After skipping Monday, because nobody likes Mondays, the festival is back Feb. 5 with The Gold Rush, another hit from the silent era. The 1925 comedy about harsh life during the Klondike gold rush is the film Chaplin has said he wants to be remembered for. Many of its classic slapstick scenes have been copied in later films. The director re-edited the film in 1942 and added a new score, which was nominated for an Oscar that year. The Gold Rush also has a 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The festival ends with The Chaplin Revue, a package of three films made between 1918 and 1923. The films are A Dog’s Life, The Pilgrim and Shoulder Arms. The latter film is known in Czech as Dobrý voják Chaplin (Good Soldier Chaplin), to make it seem similar to Good Soldier Švejk. The shorts have recorded commentary by Chaplin.

Chaplin has remained an influence on TV and film comedy, with some of his classic scenes re-enacted to this day in new contexts. Most comedians who use physical humor acknowledge him as an inspiration.

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