100 Essential Directors - Charles Chaplin

by Stuart Henderson

12 August 2011

100 Essential Directors celebrates directors of distinct vision, who have honed their respective crafts, who have brought something new and exciting to the medium, and who continue to push the boundaries of the form.
 

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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