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THE CIRCUS
1928 - Charlie Chaplin
United States
109
Opening Shot

The Circus opens with a sweet interior shot of a woman swinging alone on the trapeze. After the title sequence we are literally taken into the action of a live circus as an iris shot of a star breaks into a loop at the center of a circus ring.

The Film

I'm not sure if I prefer this film or City Lights as my favorite Charlie Chaplin film, but I wanted to choose The Cirucs becuase it is a film that deserve to be consider among (if not) Chaplin's best films. The Circus can viewed as his personal farewell to the silent filmmaking era. An era he believed in and loved with all his genius and passion. Chaplin would continue making silent films (even well after the change over to talkies), but they still incorporated a bit of sound in some way (i.e. the hilarious opening sequence of City Lights in which Chaplin mocks sound). The Circus would be Chaplin's final (completely) silent film. Made in between his two most famous films (Gold Rush and City Lights), this may be Chaplin's most forgotten work. Like City Lights, this film displays Chaplin at his very best. Perfectly combining a touching emotional connection, wonderful romance, consistent laughter, and meaningful poetic visuals. The final sequence is truly incredible, particularly the beauty within the final shot. The Circus is an amazingly artistic and enjoyable statement from a cinema legend. The silent era may have ended in 1928, but it's impact is timeless and will
be cherished for eternity.

The Filmmaker

Charlie Chaplin is one of the most legendary iconic figures in the history of film. Whether as an actor, director, or simply a comedian Chaplin rates among the most celebrated and beloved figures of all of cinema. Chaplin was born in England and started off in theater as a young child. During the early 1910s Chaplin toured in the United States with a group of stage comedians. Here he was seen by one of D.W. Griffith's partners and was offered to work in films. Chaplin made his film debut with the Keystone Company in 1914's Making a Living. Chaplin was very disappointed with the results as Keystone wanted to use Chaplin simply for his psychical comedy. Chaplin wanted to add more character and some of his next Keystone films displayed this as in 1914's Kid Auto Races at Venice he incorporated what would become his signature character of the silent era: "The Tramp". Chaplin made 35 films in 1914, and he directed 19 of them. By 1915 Chaplin began writing, directing, usually editing, and sometimes composing all of his films. Over time and with success Chaplin began to get more and more creative freedom. The result was evident as his films became more and more structured as a narrative rather then just a series of comedic gags. Through his Tramp character Chaplin would ultimately (in a variety of ways) examine the contradictions of a human society. In fact the tramp was a metaphoric contradiction- an optimist that feared and hated the deceptions of society yet at the same time desired the praise and benefits society offered through deception. This examination became more and more clear as Chaplin evolved with his feature films. While Griffith was well known for establishing the director voice in film, Chaplin's films marked an influential change on the performer within the film. Simply put, he made audiences remember and appeal to the performers of the film. Chaplin feature filmmaking debut came in 1921 with The Kid. His next film 1923's A Woman of Paris was a change of direction into drama and the result was a rare box office failure (simply because audiences didn't want to see a Chaplin film without laughs). A scandal followed Chaplin during production of his next film The Gold Rush which Chaplin returned the tramp character and regained success with audiences. In 1928 Chaplin made his last "true" silent film (The Circus) and it marked a personal masterpiece of both his career and the silent era. Chaplin was totally against the invention of sound and felt "talkie pictures" were just a fad. While his next features would use some sound, they could still be considered silent films. Chaplin remained one of the very last filmmakers to make the transition into talking pictures. His masterpiece 1931's City Lights began with a muffled opening speech which poked fun at talkies. His last "silent film" Modern Times was made in 1936 (nearly 10 years after the invention of sound). Chaplin would go on to make very good sound films, among them is one of his greatest achievements 1952's Limelight. One aspect that made Chaplin's films so endearing is the masterful and sometimes poetic way in which they ended. The final shots of his greatest film City Lights are among the loveliest in film history; the final shots of The Circus and Limelight are among the most beautifully poetic of his career; and in Modern Times he gives his famous Tramp character a memorable final goodbye. Chaplin is one of the most important figures in the history of film and hopefully his films will continue to be as cherished and enjoyed for generations to come.

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