Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Movie Review: Modern Times

Read more about the film at

It always amazes me how the more things change, the more things remain the same. Usually for the worse, too. Catching a showing of Charlie Chaplin's classic film Modern Times this past week on AMC doubly emphasized this point to me. 

I had seen the film many years before in a film studies class and remembered the great slapstick moments in the factory gear wheels and the hysterical miming antics of Chaplin's Little Tramp character working as a singing waiter and playing "football" with a roast duck. What really struck me this time about the narrative was how "modern" Modern Times still is. Eighty years on and the US still has large numbers of unemployed workers, union busting, street violence, and children and adults going hungry and homeless... Chaplin wrote this story during the Great Depression, yet it easily could have been written within the past year. Modern Times is both timeless and touching.

Watching Modern Times made me pause and wonder: Have I "time warped" back to the 1930s? Or did Chaplin time travel to the early twenty-first century and back again before he penned his masterpiece? Either way, the film stands the test of time and continues to point out how little the heart of American society has changed since the film's 1936 premiere. The rich demand more and more and will throw a starving street urchin in jail for stealing a loaf of bread. Workers are to be manipulated and exploited and then cast aside all in the name of profits. The authorities exact heavy violence against striking workers who only want to call attention to their plight. I think we can all see the parallels between Chaplin's story and today's headlines.

History repeats itself if we do not learn from it. Modern Times really should become required viewing for all. Perhaps only then will we stop the cycle of poverty, income disparity, hunger and frustration felt by those struggling to survive day-to-day. The Little Tramp will do us all a good deed if we will only watch and learn from his antics.


A J said...

Chaplin was a superb movie maker and social commentator. It is rather sad to see that nothing much has changed since the movie was made, in spite of decades of agitation and legal protection for workers' rights.

Cindy said...

Agreed. It is a classic. The definition of a classic is that it never goes out of style and is relevant in all generations... I just wish we could some day look back at Modern Times and say, "It's great how we've addressed and solved these problems at last!"

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