Every Friday I recommend an entertaining, slow-paced movie from no later than 1985 to help you unwind at the end of the week in our fast-paced world.
Have you ever laughed at a 1930s intertitle before? Really, all-out laughed at one?
I hope you will this weekend.
This is a truly wonderful movie. Not only is it filled with very smart—and still very relevant—ideas, but it knows how to use them. “Modern Times” is three-dimensional in a way that puts many current 3D movies to shame. The jokes come from numerous ideas colliding all at the same time from many different directions, and even more than that, every single element of the movie—whether it’s the equally creative story, shots, sound or acting—is just a piece that comes together to support one larger statement.
“Modern Times” follows a factory worker and a young homeless woman trying to make their way in a very fast-paced, scary world that stops for no one no matter what corner you find yourself in. The story winds along paths that you don’t expect, even if you think you’re going to expect them. The characters’ motivations and the jokes that spring from them frequently zag where you think they’ll zig. This creates a lot of great layers for the movie, keeping you interested and paying off in some very fun ways. The majority of the characters, both leading and supporting, don’t seem like they’re on a stage, but instead really give off a life that shines right off the screen and surprisingly bridges the gap of time in a very remarkable way. It makes them interesting to watch, and you care about them, in their good times and bad times.
Interestingly, there is hardly any dialogue in the movie. It’s very visual, like a very long Pixar or Looney Tunes short. Every single moment on the screen is achieved with the same precision of the fine-tuned clockwork it’s satirizing, and is as skilled as Chaplin’s own famous physical comedy. Every person and object in “Modern Times” conveys the story so well.
But that’s not to say the movie is silent. There is quite a bit of sound, and I actually think of the movie as a whole as being somewhere between silent and sound—it’s a multidimensional film. In “Modern Times,” every single sound is for a specific, very cool purpose, and like everything else, it all comes together superbly with the visuals, story and acting that you forget about the lack of dialogue, and the resulting overall pace creates a very full, absorbing atmosphere.
The movie does take some adjusting at first because of its style. But within 10 minutes, you know you’re in for something special. There are several legitimately laugh-out-loud parts. “Modern Times” isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty darn close. It’s well-crafted comedy, and more, transporting us very vividly into a time long gone that is also a reflection of our own.
And that’s a good movie night.
After all that, if you still need something retro to satisfy your movie appetite until next week, check out my previous recommendations:
Let me know what you think of this week’s recommendation and stay tuned!
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