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4.4 out of 5 stars19
4.4 out of 5 stars
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Showing 1-1 of 1 reviews(3 star).show all reviews
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 29, 2003
With two DVDs and a high budget at their disposal, the producers of this DVD should have been able to give us the film as it was originally intended to be seen. But no -- in this set, you get two versions, neither of which even came close to satisfying my memory of this film, watching a crappy TV version which nevertheless had the original score intact and no narration.
The two versions here are Chaplin's own retroactive tampering with his film, adding oodles of unnecessary narration which never tells us anything the images don't. It's strange that Chaplin himself didn't always realize that his was a highly theatrical, demonstrative comic technique of which he is a master, but which holds no element of naturalism whatsoever. Whenever he departed from the silent-film milieu, he never went too far (with the sole exception of Monsieur Verdoux). Chaplin's own dialogue technique is ill suited to film, being too magnanimous and self-conscious; when he employs it in a strange silent-film way (as in the singing sequence of Modern Times, or the "people-talking-gibberish" gag he uses in his later films) he succeeds grandly. When he tries to use sound naturalistically as in the narration here, The Great Dictator and Limelight, he tends to fumble.
Having been shell-shocked by the meddled-with version, I had hopes that the second version on Disc 2, billed as "the original 1925 silent version", would be better. Only marginally: Somehow they felt the need to replace all the titles (yes, the titles matter -- just look at Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo) and, more grievously, redo the score. And this new recording is even more problematic than the overly clean re-recorded orchestral score to the recent DVD re-release of Metropolis. The music on this "1925 version" sounds so digital that it neatly destroys the feel of the picture. The piano sounds like it's a MIDI keyboard plugged direct into a computer, without the percussive feel of a real piano, and the resultant sound is so antiseptic that it's anachronistic to the picture. They should have at least used analog tape to record, to simulate the warmer, older sound that would have accompanied this film both in its day and throughout history. The musical performance also lacks that "soul"; it sounds like a series of notes following sheet music, rather than an expressive entity complementing the film. I don't think they spent nearly enough time drilling the performance and the production on the music here, and it just ruins the picture for me.
I refuse to believe that there isn't a soundtrack to The Gold Rush out there that dispenses with the narration yet includes music that sounds of the same era as the film. I'd rather hear a third-generation transfer of an old Beta soundtrack from a TV station rather than these two versions: One unnecessarily tampered with narration, the other a clean, technically flawless, yet soulless imitation of what the music might have been like in 1925.
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