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June 15, 2010


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The Jake Leg Kid

Could a comedian who took dim enough a view of humanity to properly suss out what the Third Reich was and where it was headed ever have reached the insane level of popularity Chaplin attained? I seriously doubt it. Thus Ron Rosenbaum's attack on Chaplin for not treating Hitler with due satiric vitriol strikes me as a bit of red herring. Assuming Chaplin had had the perspicacity to grasp the true nature of Nazism, he likely never would have enjoyed in the first place the vast influence Rosenbaum curses him for not using to rouse the American public when it would have counted.

Mind you, I do think it's a fair cop to criticize Chaplin for depicting a world in his films, up to and including THE GREAT DICTATOR, where the rise a phenomenon like the Third Reich is impossible to imagine. Needless to say, the same criticism could be lobbed at nearly all pre-WWII movies. Where Chaplin does go especially wrong in THE GREAT DICTATOR is that he seems to believe that the world in his movies and the real world are one and the same, and thus that the real world operates by the same conventions as do his films. Thus, his grossly mistaken overconfidence that powerful people can be defeated if you only show them taking a pratfall, that goodness will win out in the end.


Janus Films/Criterion have already announced that they have picked up the U.S. rights to the Chaplin catalog from Mk2 and the Chaplin estate. Janus is beginning a major theatrical retrospective at Film Forum next month, which will begin touring soon there after, and Criterion has promised the first of the DVD/Blu-ray releases by the end of the year. Here are the links to the upcoming Janus Chaplin page, the Film Forum series, and the extensive thread at Criterion Forum, speculating about, confirming, and discussing these releases.


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