Tuesday, June 29, 2010
THE GOLD RUSH (Charles Chaplin, 1925, USA)
The Tramp tramps north to Alaska to discover Georgia on his mind. Charles Chaplin proves once again the art imitates life, a sublime pantomime that cuts to the chase of human behavior, simplifying the complex convolutions of the human heart. His threadbare gestalt is accessible to both rich and poor, young and old, and crosses those nebulous boundaries of religion and nationality to be embraced by everyone.
The setup is preposterous as the shabbily outfitted Little Fellow hikes through a raging snowstorm and across an icy mountain pass in search of his fortunes, dressed in his atypical baggy clothes, black hat, and twirling cane. His fortunes coincide with a snarling villain, genial prospector, and beautiful young lady who is worth her weight in gold.
Chaplin mines humor in human drama, from the tempest of a blizzard to chivalry under saloon lights, utilizing vignettes that propel the story towards its house-teetering climax that could exist as short films themselves. The most famous scene in THE GOLD RUSH involves the Tramp’s fantasy New Year’s Eve supper with the beautiful Georgia and her friends: at a loss for words, his dance with two rolls and a pair of forks upon the table evokes laughter and a mile-wide smile, as emotion is transmuted into action, a simple act of love that makes one good to be alive. Chaplin’s use of mise-en-scene is dramatic in the saloon vignette, focusing the tramp in center frame as Georgia looks everywhere but at him, and the denizens a blur of movement while our protagonist stands quite still, as life passes him by. Sadly beautiful.
The amiable vagabond finally attains his fortune by falling head over heels, his wealth not measure in precious metals but in treasured hearts. And so it is: a happy ending. Final Grade: (A)
Words Chosen by Alex DeLarge