The Little Tramp will pay a holiday visit to Iowa City’s FilmScene, as Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times sets up shop on the big screen this weekend (with an additional showing next week). For his last (largely) silent comedy, and his final appearance on-screen as the character who made him famous, Chaplin engineered a brilliant commentary on the dehumanizing effects of automation, portraying the Tramp as a worker unable to adapt to the assembly line where he’s been installed. After being chewed up and spit out by the job, he bounces around the margins of society, struggling to make a fresh start with the woman he loves (Paulette Goddard). As critic Saul Austerlitz observes in his liner essay for our release of the film, even Chaplin’s most high-spirited gags encode a deep sense of unease with modernity’s doctrine of efficiency: “To see the Tramp strapped into an auto-feeding machine, being shoveled a steady diet of metal nuts, or emerging from a shift on the factory line still adjusting phantom screws . . . is to witness Chaplin’s alchemical gift for transforming anxiety into humor.”
Two Stark Visions of the American Underbelly Hit the Big Screen
A new restoration of the groundbreaking vérité documentary Streetwise joins its companion piece, Tiny: the Life of Eric Blackwell, at New York’s Metrograph theater this weekend.