Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Great Dictator at the PFA

I'm going to miss the Castro's screening of Chaplin's The Great Dictator this coming Wednesday, but I really wanted to see it, so I went to Berkeley this afternoon for the showing at the PFA. The 1st time I saw this movie many years ago, I enjoyed it much more than I expected to, so I wanted to see if my reaction was still the same, & it pretty much was. Much of the movie is dated & a bit embarrassing now, primarily the scenes with Paulette Godard, & especially the final close-up of her which caps Chaplin's anti-climactic oration.

On the other hand, I think all the funny parts are still really funny. Of course there are the famous back-to-back set pieces of Chaplin dancing with the balloon earth, followed by Chaplin as the barber shaving his customer to Brahms's Hungarian Rhapsody. But right at the start, the opening battle scene is full of great gags: Chaplin's Little Fellow operating a giant cannon & an anti-aircraft gun, then losing an armed grenade down his shirt-sleeve, finally ending up flying upside-down in the cockpit of a crashing plane. Chaplin's first appearance as Hynkel, delivering his faux-German speech, is worth half the price of admission already.

There's plenty of classic slapstick humor at the expense of Hitler & Mussolini, which is funny it itself, though I sometimes have to remind myself that at the time the full horrors of the war were not yet widely known. It is interesting, though, that the movie is very explicit in stating that Hitler's anti-Jewish rhetoric was a way to distract the general population from economic problems.

The turnout at the FPA was not as large as I would have thought. The theater was perhaps a 3rd full. But we were a good audience & laughed at all the right places & were politely quiet through the worst bits.

No comments: