Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Kid: Correcting Life Through Art

This is my entry in The Kid in the Front Row's global challenge to bloggers to watch the same movie at the same time and then blog about it today. Since he is the Kid in the Front Row, he has requested that the film we watch and write about be Charlie Chaplin's "The Kid."

Do you believe in the mystic powers of the universe? Do you believe that a force must make itself be head at all costs? Do you believe that the notes from a song, an image, an email from afar or a dream could all be part of the message that must be acknowledged?
I have loved Charlie Chaplin for a very long time now, but as with many of my obsessions, my passion waxes and wanes. It had been a bit on the waning side of late, owing to other pressing issues (like Cary Grant), but something has been stirring. First, a new show opened on Broadway called “Chaplin: The Musical.” I saw it twice in three weeks. I simply couldn't resist. While at the show, I picked up a book (Chaplin: A Life) written by psychiatrist Dr. Stephen Weissman and have immersed myself in the psychology of Mr. C, particularly how his childhood shaped his work. Meanwhile, Charlie has been creeping more and more into my blog. He is a persistent fellow.

Being immersed in this story, I did a Google on the word “Chaplinesque” and wrote a blog about it. The poet, Hart Crane, coined the word in his poem after seeing  “The Kid.” So, I felt it appropriate to help define the word in Charlie’s own words about that film ("a smile - and perhaps, a tear").

Right after I posted the article (and I do mean right after), I received an email regarding the challenge and the chosen film. Okay universe, I am listening.

So now, what can I say, Charlie, except that besides being a genius, an artist, and a poet, you are a mystical wizard who reaches across the decades and pulls us towards you again and again and again. As with your dream of angels and love in the film, so does your Little Tramp continue to pull at our heartstrings, haunt our dreams and invade our subconscious.

If you have seen "The Kid," I do not have to tell you how funny and heartbreaking and beautiful this film is. If you haven't seen it, I hope my enthusiasm for it will inspire you to seek it out. The story, created by Chaplin shortly after the death of his infant son, is a story of abandonment, poverty and homelessness that parallels Chaplin's own Dickensian London childhood. But, because the artist has control of the story, art does not have to imitate life. In film, the child is loved and ultimately reunited with a loving mother.
Charlie is not sure he wants to take on this responsibility!

In addition to the beautiful balm that Chaplin puts on his poverty-stricken childhood, "The Kid" offers many other wonders. A few of my favorites:

The magical Jackie Coogan: As a pint-sized Charlie, he is second to none in adorableness and skill. When  he cries for his papa it is impossible not to be moved. When he smiles, you heart can not help but melt. He may have been totally coached by Charlie, but Jackie proved to be Chaplin's most worthy co-star and is a total scene-stealer.

The beautiful Edna Purviance in her only feature length film with Chaplin: Edna was nearing the end of her on-screen relationship with Charlie, but here she is presented as a beautiful woman and loving mother and she is lovely and moving. She deserves every loving close-up he gives her.

Some awfully funny Chaplin gags: his initial ambivilence about caring for the baby, his makeshift nursery, and his crooked glazier business are all side splitting, but the one that gets me every time is Charlie's outrageous flirtation with the woman whose window Jackie has broken.

A peek into the mean streets of Chaplin's London boyhood: although filmed in Los Angeles, the feel is Oliver Twist and we feel Chaplin knows this landscape.

 So, thank you, Kid in the Front Row, for creating a global bow and tip of the hat to that most universal master of film. Not into silents? Think of this film as a concert for the eyes. Set to Chaplin's own 1971 musical score, every move tells a story, and every gesture gives us a precious glimpse into the heart of a true artist of the cinema: our beloved Little Tramp, our Lion, Charlie Chaplin.


Unknown said...

This is truly one of the most beautiful pictures of all time. I love how you describe the Dickensian backdrop for the beauty that is "Chaplinesque." Great post.

FlickChick said...

Thank you, Margaret - I truly appreciate your comments.

Samantha said...

I saw this film with my cousin a long time ago. She like you, loves Charlie and she showed me a little of what you just did in your blog.
Thanks for reminding me of a beautiful film and a beautiful time in my life.


What a nice event! I watched The Kid one morning with my grandfather, and he liked Jackie coogan a lot. Knowing the bazkground story of Chaplin's son's death, it becomes more moving.
The little dog flying near the end was so cool! :)

FlickChick said...

Samantha - that is very sweet. Thank you for sharing.

FlickChick said...

Le - Jackie and the little puppy are so cute!! It is such a special film. I never get tired of it.

Brandie said...

Great tribute to this film. Like you, I absolutely melt every time Jackie Coogan smiles. As I tweeted after watching this movie again for the blogathon, it never fails to trip me out that the adorable little moppet grew up to be TV's Uncle Fester!!

FlickChick said...

Thanks, Brandie. Yes, it is just so hard to put the face with the light bulb in its mouth with this cute little boy. Just goes to show you - if you're cute as a kid, chances are you won't be so cute as an adult.

Christian Esquevin said...

A great film for a great topic Flick Chick - and you've done them both justice in your post. As to the kid in the front row - isn't that where we all caught our love of film?

Silver Screenings said...

I love this movie, and your thoughtful tribute has made me want to see it again. :)

FlickChick said...

Thank you, Christian. It's so hard to write about a film that has been so discussed, but I had to put my 2 cents in as I love it to pieces.

FlickChick said...

Thank you SS - oh, and I do hope you see it again (and bring a hankie).

Unknown said...

I also love this movie, and maybe my favorite Charlie film..

The little dog flying near the end was so gosh darn cute!!

FlickChick said...

Thank you, Dawn. Yes - that little doggie was a cuties!