The Chaplin Collection Vol. 2 Charles Chaplin

This second box-set of Charlie Chaplin films provides a couple of classic features as well as greater depth and breadth in the understanding of Chaplin’s genius. While the first volume featured some of Chaplin’s most acclaimed features — The Gold Rush, Modern Times and The Great Dictator — here more attention gets paid to both his early career (featured in a Chaplin Revue of his early silent shorts) — as well as his late post-silent career. Two gems missing from the first box are present: City Lights, his last silent masterpiece, is the perfect balance of comedy and sentimentality, the two driving forces in Chaplin’s creative life. On the other hand, The Kid is one of his most autobiographical features (book-ended by Vol. 1’s Limelight) and also one of his most touching. The biggest surprise comes in the form of The Circus, one of Chaplin’s purest and funniest comedies; it’s a film that has received short shrift from historical assessments. Plagued by production difficulties and, off screen, one of Hollywood’s most bitter divorces, Chaplin was so anxious to forget that period of time that the two years he spent filming The Circus weren’t mentioned even once in his autobiography. But the film itself, which draws on his early vaudeville days, is one of his best and ripe for rediscovery. Fascinating for different reasons is his darkest comedy, Monsieur Verdoux, which chronicles a grifter who woos and then murders rich older women. At this point, the British actor/writer/producer/director/composer had been blacklisted under the cloud of communist fear that had overcome the American political environment, and Verdoux was one of his great box office disappointments. Each film here comes with an extensive second disc that provides context to the film’s release, production and its contemporary influence. These excellent featurettes are further expanded upon in Charlie: The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin, a full-length documentary featuring interviews with Chaplin’s children, as well as fans, including Woody Allen, Johnny Depp (who recreated Chaplin’s famous dinner roll dance in Benny and Joon) and Robert Downey Jr. (Oscar-nominated for his portrayal in the 1992 feature Chaplin), among others. The extent of Chaplin’s genius truly cannot be overstated and even his relative failures provide keen insight into the work and art of a man so intent on perfection that he was — as one person quips in the documentary — Kubrick before Kubrick, except he was largely funded by his own fortune. The history of film, the Hollywood studio system and the transition from silent to sound features are all extensively explored in a collection that makes for compelling viewing for casual viewers and serious film geeks alike. (Warner)