Friday, November 23, 2007

Sunnyside & A Day's Pleasure & Pay Day d. Charlie Chaplin, 1919/1919/1922

Real quick: I encourage everyone in the bay area to check out the Charlie Chaplin Mini-Retrospective at the Pacific Film Archive. It runs through Dec. 17 and, obviously, is a great time at the movies.

Three Shorts:

Sunnyside seems to be - and as intimated in the bio-doc, Charlie, might purposefully be - a work of a man tired of and by film. All signs point to rote monotony: the farmhand (played by Chaplin) works long hours, and does whatever he can to either shirk the work or make it interesting. Chaplin employs a good deal of his object transmutation, finding new uses for old objects. The intertitles can't even finish themselves, reading, e.g., "The farm hand, etc. etc. etc." At this point, to get biographical myself, the shorts Chaplin was doing for Mutual were becoming old hat, tired to the point where the audience wouldn't be at all baffled by the etc. repetitions. To get meta, Sunnyside operates as both the title of the town and of the film; the former, in its banality, operates as a mirror for the latter, and the farm hand as a figure for Chaplin himself, attempting to creatively navigate the daily grind of the film industry. N.B. There is a great paper to be written on the false escapism inherent to Chaplin's dream sequences.

A Day's Pleasure is a sort of familial precursor to Modern Times. An ostensibly day of fun turns into an unnecessarily complicated sojourn, made frustrating by the modern conveniences of cars, boats, and traffic. Plenty of American iconography is present, so maybe this is a - definitely light-hearted - poke at the USA?

Pay Day is the slightest of the bunch, but also features one of the best setpieces of the three: an elevator on a jobsite that plays a version of musical chairs with everybody's lunch. This short proves that even when Chaplin is dealing only with gags - that is, no real thematic - his films are still fantastically compelling.


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