Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Gold Rush (Chaplin. 1925)

"Probably my fav silent movie ever made." - Sam Meister

It seems like I start every comedy write up with the same line. I am not a very big fan of comedy movies. After starting off with a rocky cinematic experience, I have come around to accepting one of Hollywood's most beloved funnymen, Buster Keaton. I consider that a personal victory. On the other hand, I am yet to really dive into the filmography of his heated rival, Charlie Chaplin.

Before now, I had only seen one film from Chaplin, The Great Dictator (1940). And though I thought that film was brilliant for political reason, I did not really appreciate its brand of comedy. I recently rented and watched another one of Chaplin's classics from the 1077, and I think it has helped me see what made him such a massive celebrity. The Gold Rush was an extremely pleasant film. It was not in the least bit hilarious, but it put a smile on my face.

The Gold Rush tells the story of Charlie's most famous character, the Tramp. After gold is discovered in Alaska, hundreds of prospectors head to the great white north looking to strike a fortune. Rather than gold, the Tramp finds an old cabin to live in, shoes to eat and a beautiful girl named Georgia. He falls head over heels for the beautiful socialite, but he is the Tramp. He is beneath the people of the higher social classes - even in Alaska.

It has been said that Charlie Chaplin tried very hard to make the audience like his character. This is very apparent in The Gold Rush. The Tramp is often humiliated, insulted, outmatched and stood-up in the film. The audience feels a massive amount of sympathy for him because he wins their hearts with good intentions. It is hard to not relate with the Tramp on some level. For me, he is the embodiment of my biggest social fear. He is unknowingly the butt of everyone's jokes. Who doesn't fear that happening to them?

On a more positive note, The Gold Rush is filled with very funny gags and stunts. In the early scenes, Chaplin is caught in a brutal wind storm. His inability to combat the wind is physical comedic brilliance. The moving house scene is a tad unbelievable, but it is the ridiculousness that makes it funny. It reminds me of the Buster Keaton film from a few years later, Steamboat Bill, Jr. In each of the films the moving house is my favorite bit of comedy.

The Gold Rush is a relatively simple picture. Chaplin stages his comedic efforts to look more like an on-screen vaudeville act. That is his signature brand of comedy. His physical prowess does not touch that of Buster Keaton, but so far his films have a much stronger emotional drawing power. Cute and ultimately happy, The Gold Rush is a must see film. I really loved it.

The Gold Rush: A-

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