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A truly wonderful film; it swiftly became one of my favorites. In a nutshell, it's the story of a once-great stage comedian (Calvero, a formerly great tramp clown, played by Charlie Chaplin), who's been failing in his career, and has become an alcholic, who saves the life of a despondent ballerina (played by Claire Bloom) from a suicide attempt. The film is a juxtaposition of these two personalities, one who rallies & goes onward, the other who falls further. It contains some of Chaplin's funniest & finest moments, include a nice pantomime of a flea circus, and a duet towards the end of the film with Buster Keaton. Interestingly, neither comic legend played their most famous characters; Chaplin wasn't the tramp, but rather another tramp comedian, a manic violinist. Keaton wasn't his well-known stone face, but rather a near-sighted pianist. Some have suggested that Chaplin jealously cut Keaton's time on screen, but as Jerry Epstein (Chaplin's assistant on this film, and the other person besides Chaplin in the editing room) noted, Chaplin cut far more of his own moments from the scene. When asked why, Chaplin replied to the effect, that no matter how funny something was, if it didn't move the scene forward, it had to go. Something that modern clowns (and film makers) would do well to take to heart. A bittersweet film, that runs perhaps slightly longer than it should, but I frankly think it's "just right." I recommend it very highly, either for fellow clowns to learn from, or for fellow human beings to enjoy.
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on December 7, 2001
I really do like this movie. It's not intended to be funny or comedic, it's not a 'tramp' film. Instead, it is the musings of an old man, who has reflected on his life, realized how great he was once, how poorly he has become, and yet never gives up hope. This is a pretty serious dramatic film, actually, which seems to me why people didn't accept it too well: they were expecting something silly. The film does have its sillier moments, of course, especially with Buster Keaton, and a bit of clowning and dialouge, such as the flea circus bit.
I find that Chaplin had an incredible speaking voice, and was very well capable of playing a dramatic role. Considering how his life went, as the movie seems to follow pretty closely, it makes sense. The relationship between the Chaplin and the ballerina is fascinating, how they keep each other from death, how they give each other hope. It is a great movie, and I wish there were more as good.
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...I like tug at your heart melodramas.
This story is like an opera without the mezzo soprano voice. A down and out, alcoholic clown takes in a "paralyzed" ballet dancer and inspires her to greatness, while he falls deeper and deeper into failure. A shadow of his former self, Calvero, the great clown performer, is reduced to street performances and passing the hat for money. What will definitely stir the movie viewer is that even in the age difference, the drinking binges, and the apparent class differences, the ballerina, Thereza, wants to marry Calvero and that she "would do anything" to make the clown happy. What devotion! You will love Chaplin's flea circus bit and his over the top violin performance with Keaton. Note: although the film was made in the 50's, it has a feel to it like it was done earlier. The movie viewer will enjoy it, nonetheless.
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on September 9, 2000
A very touching drama about a ballerina who falls in love with an agingmusic hall performer. Not Chaplin's best, but pretty close!
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