Tuesday, April 19, 2011
"The horse blew first"
This is part of the series Hit Me With Your Best Shot at The Film Experience.
I must make a confession: I have never seen a Charlie Chaplin movie before. The Circus was my first experience, and oh, boy, how I thoroughly enjoyed it. I have a little aversion to silent movies (although I think that Maria Falconetti gave one of the best performances ever in La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc, it being one of my favorite movies). But Charlie Champlin might have cured me of said aversion.
This movie was filled with visual gags and some jokes (like the one in the title of this entry, in which they are trying to give a pill to a horse using a straw and blowing through it, but when The Tramp attempts it, the horse blows first and the pill ends in The Tramp's stomach; I laughed very hard). But it is also infused with sadness and some violence, the dire conditions of the circus people, the dictatorship of the Ring Master, unrequited love, acceptance and, ultimately, letting go.
These themes are represented in a wide array of memorable images.
At the beginning of the movie we see Merna failing to go through the hoop. She is but another failed act in this circus. When her father confronts her, he uses violence (physical and psychological), depriving her of food and pushing her, making Merna to go at last through the hoop.
The hoop has a star in its center, which ties up nicely with the final sad and sorrowful shots of the movie.
Merna has found love (and it is not The Tramp) and she, as well as the circus, move on, leaving The Tramp behind, alone in the dust. But he finds the star at the center of the loop. The Tramp, after picking and caressing it, continues with the travails of his life.
But my favorite shot (and sequence of the movie) is actually the mirror maze. In it, we see reflection upon reflection of The Tramp. Almost like a symbolism for where he is, where he wants to go, what he has to do to continue with his life, of been lost before finally finding the way. The sequence in which he loses his hat and tries to retrieve it is particularly fascinating. The physical comedy is at its best.
Charlie Chaplin was truly gifted. He directed, scripted and wrote the music for this movie. In the version I saw, he even sings the title song.
Thoroughly entertaining. I will definitely see more of these silent gems. This is part of the series Hit Me With Your Best Shot at The Film Experience.