Chaplin’s Comedy of Murders

A far cry from the tramp persona Charlie Chaplin made iconic in films like The Kid, City Lights, and Modern Times, the cold-blooded murderer at the heart of Monsieur Verdoux pushed the great actor-director’s brand of humor into disturbing new territory. Released in 1947, this tale of deception stars Chaplin as an enigmatic family man who, in an attempt to support his wife and child, starts killing off wealthy, middle-aged widows for their money. The film is not only one of the most unsettling comedies of its era but also a showcase for Chaplin’s extraordinary talent for blending and contrasting various modes of comedic performance. In the latest episode of Observations on Film Art, now streaming on the Criterion Channel on FilmStruck, professor David Bordwell analyzes the mix of tones and genres that makes Monsieur Verdoux such a provocative film, one whose brilliance has taken decades to be fully recognized. Watch the full video on the Channel, and check out previous episodes in the series, whose topics include editing in Akira Kurosawa’s Sanshiro Sugata, camera movement in Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colors: Red, and staging in Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game.

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