Tag Archives: Silent Film

Review: Modern Times

Director: Charlie Chaplin
Year: 1936
Score: 5/10

A woman, clearly in fear, being chased by a strange man. Fear of rape = comedy gold..? Not so much.

A woman, clearly in fear, being chased by a strange man. Fear of rape = comedy gold..? Not so much.

Hugely disappointing not-quite-but-almost silent film from Charlie Chaplin, inexplicably one of his most acclaimed.

It really didn’t work for me; I appreciated the obvious commentary on the ills of the modern industrialised world, and the ending – though abrupt – was quite nice, but the actual comedy largely fell flat.

Maybe I’m just not a fan of simplistic physical comedy? That would explain why most of the bits I laugh at in Marx Brothers movies are clever wordplay rather than slapstick humour. Speaking of which, it’s somewhat amusing that Modern Times has 100% more duck-related comedy than Duck Soup does.

Review: Silent Movie

Director: Mel Brooks
Year: 1976
Score: 3.5/10

Video games: the butt of bad jokes since 1976.

Video games: the butt of bad jokes since 1976.

The worst Mel Brooks movie I’ve seen, this is an almost entirely unfunny parody of silent films. It’s loaded with celebrity cameos that are presented as though they’re making fun of celebrity cameos, but they don’t help. There are lots of sight gags (what else can there be, really?), none of which land. It clocks in at only 87 minutes but feels interminable. I get the feeling nobody had the heart or balls to tell Brooks this was an idea worthy of a short film (or sketch) at best, not one worth stretching out over an entire feature-length film. The one bright spot is a brief appearance by the brilliant Marcel Marceau. Avoid unless you’re a Brooks completist.

Review: The General

Directors: Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman
Year: 1926
Score: 6/10

Cinema's oldest wet t-shirt competition.

Cinema’s oldest wet t-shirt competition.

The oldest movie I’ve ever seen (apart from excerpts from Birth of a Nation), this classic Buster Keaton silent comedy only really holds up in the sense that it’s interesting and historically significant; the actual entertainment value is pretty marginal. Some regard it as the best film ever made; I find that hard to fathom… are they really genuinely entertained and amused by it, or just impressed given it was made so very long ago? The best part is the farcical train chase, which goes on quite a while and has plenty of gags to get through. I kept wondering (and still do) precisely how a lot of those train scenes were shot; it looks very much like they just did a lot of it practically rather than with any cinematic trickery, which is impressive if true. I know the bridge/train shot was done practically, and was apparently the most expensive stunt of the silent era, and it’s hard not to be wowed by it. Worth watching for cinema buffs, but probably won’t find much of an audience beyond them these days.

Review: The Artist

Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Year: 2011
Score: 6/10

Quite a disappointment. The first half hour is great – I was immediately drawn in by the unique style, the clever homages to the silent film era, and the surprising sense of fun – but then it starts to drag and never really recovers. The second half commits the cardinal cinematic sin of being boring. Jean Dujardin is quite good but Bérénice Bejo is even better.