Friday, March 20, 2015

1947 - MONSIEUR VERDOUX, Chaplin's legendary black comedy is a pretty poor film

I would have to give Charles Chaplin credit for trying to pull off something like this especially during the late 1940's.  A black comedy about a serial murderer was certainly an audacious idea for a film.  However, the execution of this idea is mediocre at best and just plain bad at several points in the film.

The two biggest problems in Monsieur Verdoux are the production and the direction by Chaplin.  The whole film just looks cheap.  Crappy painted backgrounds, sets that look like sets.  The film has a cramped studio look to it and I'm not talking a major studio like MGM or Warner Brothers.  As for Chaplin the director, Monsieur Verdoux is almost painful to watch.  It's essentially a film made with an outdated silent film technique which makes it one of the most old fashioned films I've seen from the 1940's.  Chaplin was a pioneer filmmaker in the early days of Hollywood but it seems like his directing style hadn't evolved much past the 1920's.

In every Charles Chaplin film the star is Chaplin himself and is he ever the star.  Every scene is about him.  He has a weird effeminate acting style and nonstop hamming technique for the camera.  No other actor even gets a remote shot at creating a character in this film since the whole thing is all about Chaplin all the time.

Finally, the whole film is kind of distasteful.  Since Chaplin is playing a serial killer of women every woman he kills seems to deserve it.  It's as if he is doing the world a favor getting rid of these shrews.
Towards the end of the film Chaplin makes a speech where he compares war to his murder sprees as if to justify his actions this seems like the height of hypocrisy since you could probably make the case that however awful these women were they certain deserved every right to live even if they weren't the moral and intellectual equal of Chaplin's character.

Unsurprisingly this film was not successful in the United States.  Between the subject matter and Chaplin's communist politics this was a further alienation of an audience that had worshiped him during the silent film phase of his career.

124 minutes.

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