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MODERN TIMES

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Unlike most of his earlier features, Charlie Chaplin's 1937 film has a clear message to impart, but it's still remarkable how seldom this classic strains for effect. The Tramp is enmeshed (sometimes literally) in the machinery of the industrial world -- on an assembly line, in jail and inadvertently leading a labor march -- along the way making cause with a fellow outcast (Paulette Goddard). Though it has scant spoken dialogue, the film was Chaplin's second with a soundtrack and the first in which his voice was heard (singing a delightfully nonsensical ditty). Episodic in structure, it's less graceful narratively than, say, City Lights, but the execution is still flawless. And if some of its points seem obvious today, it's fair to note that when released Modern Times was criticized in the U.S. as "Red propaganda" and banned outright in Germany and Italy. Four cameras

 

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