A tramp discovers true love is more dangerous than walking a tightrope. Charles Chaplin once again tells a simple tale of sublime devotion to reveal the wonderful depth of human nature.
The tramp is accused of pick pocketing and chased into a failing circus, where his bumbling antics are a sensation. He is hired as a property man and becomes the hit of the show, his slapstick seemingly unintentionally inept. He falls for the owners daughter, a trapeze artist who is abused by her father when her routine fails. When Rex is hired as the new act, the tramp has to prove himself the superior man.
Chaplin’s routines are a humorous ballet and fit the tempo and structure of the story: from the ongoing gag of the donkey chase to the high-wire act where he’s accosted by monkeys, each setup is perfectly in character and becomes a tempestuous performance of physicality and emotion. With precise body language and facial expression, Chaplin imbues the tramp with grace and humility making his final sacrifice all the more tearful. This is Chaplin at the height of his creativity! As the tramp attempts to impress his paramour by taking over the high-wire act, the ensuing chaos is wonderfully choreographed and the results absolutely hilarious. But the power of the film is in its contemplative moments as the tramp sits alone and daydreams. In one sequence Chaplin uses a double-exposure to mimic the tramp’s daydream of pummeling the new suitor but he remains shy and unassuming. The final scene as he walks alone across the muddy field leaving behind the fading circus ring is beautifully sad and reflective: his loss has become another’s gain.
Final Grade: (A)