The great silent comedian Charles Chaplin's political troubles with the United States government probably didn't begin with the release of Modern Times in 1936. But this brilliant satire of American factory automation, the depersonalization of workers and the social ills of the Depression got a cold reception in the U.S. ("Red propaganda," some cried), even as it was banned in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. Today it remains as fresh and pointed and relentlessly funny as ever, a sublime example of Chaplin's art at the pinnacle of achievement. Herein, the indefatigable Charlie becomes a guinea pig and a victim of a ruthless feeding machine that forces steel nuts into his mouth and pelts him with food. He is fired from his job in a shipyard for inadvertently launching an unfinished ship. He's thrown in jail. Paulette Goddard is the gamin who becomes his beleaguered partner in life. Created in the early sound era as a rear-guard experiment in silence, the film features a soundtrack but no dialogue save for a couple of gibberish songs and a few words heard on the radio and, yes, from a primitive TV set.
A meticulously restored 35-millimeter print of Modern Times will begin a revival run this Friday, January 30, at Starz FilmCenter, in the Tivoli building on the Auraria campus. For information, call 303-820-3456.
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