Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Great Dictator (Charels Chaplin, 1940)

The Great Dictator (Charels Chaplin, 1940)
Rating: 9.2

Links are to clips of scenes referred to:

Some complain that Chaplin was struggling to adapt to the sound era when he made The Great Dictator. There are a few instances where I think the film could have been cut down as it gets a bit too talky, but overall I found the film to be a lovely hybrid of silent and early sound aesthetics that was far ahead of it's time in terms of dark comedy and political satire. It's hard to believe the film came out in 1940 before the United States had even entered WWII. There are times where I think that the film could have just as easily been entirely silent, however there are certainly scenes that make me think otherwise such as the riveting final speech which is just as relevant now as it was then. Scenes such as the one where Hynkel plays with the balloon globe, the scene in which the men are eating cake with coins in them, or when the barber shaves along to the score play like Chaplin's classic silent pieces. Conversely the film also makes audio gags that work well too. For example when the crowd applauds Hynkel's speech only to be instantly muted by his hand gesture or the jingling of the coins in the jewish barber's belly as he hiccups. My favorite scene has to be the upside down plane bit which only gets more hilarious as they run out of gas and apathetically embrace death as the plane crashes.

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