USA, 1936, Comedy
Charlie Chaplin is in glorious form in this legendary satire of the mechanized world. (…) The pantomime is triumphant, but Chaplin also draws a lively relationship between the Tramp and a street gamine. She’s played by Paulette Goddard, then Chaplin’s wife and probably his best leading lady (here and in The Great Dictator). The film’s theme gave the increasingly ambitious writer-director a chance to speak out about social issues, as well as indulging in the bittersweet quality of pathos that critics were already calling ‘Chaplinesque.’ In 1936, Chaplin was still holding out against spoken dialogue in films, but he did use a synchronized soundtrack of sound effects and his own music, a score that includes one of his most famous melodies,
Music: “The score to Modern Times is the most strong, complex, and innovative score in his entire opus. It is a vast palette of musical intricacies and bold symphonic statements that mirror not only the film’s content, but musically symbolize its message. His factory sequences musically represent the kinetic chaos in precision-demanded passages that reflect the impossibility of the worker’s task. The societal plight of the depression is scored with a certain blend of angst and pathos, and yet he provides the youthful spirit of the Gamin in a mischievous and sprightly setting. Even the café dance numbers are full of life and so eminently well written that it is obvious to us that the musical Chaplin, above all else, knew what he was doing.” (Timothy Brook)
Story: The little tramp works in a futuristic factory tightening bolts that pass by on a conveyor belt. One day he has a nervous breakdown from the stress of his job and creates chaos in the plant before being carted off. Recovered from this episode, he is wrongfully jailed as the leader of a riot. After having an enjoyable prison stay, he is released but finds life on the outside difficult. He tries to get thrown back in prison by taking the blame for an orphaned gamine who was caught stealing some bread. However, the two wind up living together in a run-down shack, and the tramp goes back to work at a factory as a mechanic’s assistant. But the factory closes down because of a strike, and the tramp is again incorrectly held for attacking a policeman in a riot. When he gets out of jail, the gamine has found a job in a cafe with singing waiters and promises to get him one too. The tramp fails miserably as a waiter but succeeds in entertaining the customers, and it looks like the two have found steady employment. However, orphanage authorities arrive and try to take the gamine away, but she escapes with the tramp. The final sequence shows the two wandering along a desolate road. The gamine starts to cry, but the tramp encourages her not to give up. They start their journey together, walking down the road toward the horizon.
Charles Chaplin (1939), reconstructed by Timothy Brock (2000)
large orchestra (46 musicians and more)
Instrumentation: 2/picc.1/ca.2+1/sopsax/altsax+1/altsax+1/basscl/contrabasscl/tenorsax.1 – 188.8.131.52 – 3perc.pno/cel.hp. Singing: Male Quartet (TTBB) ad libitum – strings (10.8.6.5.4)
Duration: 89 min.
fps sync: 24