Chaplin’s influence cannot be overstated—a true auteur, he would go on to craft a series of stirring, gorgeous, hilarious, simple parables which, while endlessly entertaining, never steered far from their social message. A committed socialist—he would eventually be treated as a subversive agent in the US in one of their more foolish moments of anti-communist idiocy—Chaplin’s filmography is underpinned by a persistent and stirring attack on the de-humanizing power of a faceless capitalist machine. His most indelible moments rely on the juxtaposition between the softness of humanity and the unbendable steel of progress. It’s hard to think of a better visual metaphor for this than the scene early in his Depression-era satire Modern Times when his Tramp character literally gets caught in the gears of a machine. Both amazingly funny and utterly convincing as a visual metaphor, here was the genius of Chaplin. An entertainer with a purpose. Chaplin died on Christmas Day, in 1977, at the age of 88.
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