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The Tramp struggles to live in modern industrial society with the help of a young homeless woman.
For more about Modern Times and the Modern Times Blu-ray release, see Modern Times Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on November 12, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Henry Bergman (I), Tiny Sandford, Chester Conklin, Hank Mann
Director: Charles Chaplin
» See full cast & crew
Modern Times Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, November 12, 2010
Charlie Chaplin's "Modern Times" (1936) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include a new, exclusive audio commentary by Chaplin biographer David Robinson; visual essay by Chaplin historian Jeffrey Vance; interview with visual and sound effects experts Craig Barron and Ben Burtt ; visual essay narrated by John Bengtson; interview with television composer David Raksin; archival footage removed by Chaplin; three theatrical trailers; "All at Sea" (1933), a short film by journalist Alistair Cooke; "The Rink" (1916), a short film Chaplin did for the Mutual Film Corporation; "For the First Time" (1967), a short by Cuban documentary filmmaker Octavio Cortazar; and "Chaplin Today: "Modern Times", a documentary film produced by MK2TV. The disc also arrives with 40-page illustrated booklet. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Modern Times is Charlie Chaplin's last silent film. I like it a lot because it is one of the great actor's least dated films. It is witty and funny but also incredibly sad film, in a lot of ways depicting successfully the type of world we are currently living in - obsessed with productivity and corporate profits.
The Tramp is a factory worker. He suffers a nervous breakdown and ends up in prison where he accidentally swallows some cocaine and then prevents a group of inmates from escaping. Eventually, much to his disappointment he is released back into society where people are rude and food expensive.
While wandering around, the Tramp meets a beautiful homeless girl (Paulette Goddard) and immediately falls in love with her. After spending some time together, the two begin fantasizing about having a place they could call home. Convinced that anything is possible with hard work and determination, including saving enough to buy a home, the Tramp gets a job as a night guard in a large department store. A day later, he is fired.
The Tramp gets a new job in a large industrial plant but the workers go on strike demanding better wages. While attempting to leave the plant, he is arrested and sent back to prison. Meanwhile, his girlfriend is offered a job in an upscale restaurant.
A week later the Tramp is released. His girlfriend greets him in front of the prison and informs him that he can work with her in the restaurant - at least she hopes so. The Tramp meets the owner and he agrees to hire him as a waiter and singer. For the Tramp and his girlfriend life could not be better.
But once again everything that could go wrong goes terribly wrong - the Tramp frustrates a wealthy customer and then causes an enormous mess in the restaurant. Two policemen also appear to arrest the Tramp's girlfriend, who is wanted on charges of burglary.
Modern Times was the last of the Tramp films. It was also the film that gave the notorious House Committee on Un-American Activities (HCUA) the confidence to speculate that Chaplin might be a communist sympathizer (it was the famous scene in which the Tramp gets arrested in front of the industrial plant where workers and policemen clash that made a lot of people in Washington nervous). J. Edgar Hoover even ordered the FBI to monitor Chaplin and keep detailed secret files on him.
Though Modern Times houses a strong dose of social criticism, it is certainly not a political film. Rather, it is a witty film that satirizes an industrial society obsessed with productivity, profits, and growth – much like contemporary America.
There are strong romantic overtones in Modern Times as well - most of which unfortunately take away from the serious message the film was supposedly meant to deliver. The Tramp's factory exploits, for instance, feel rather awkward next to the prolonged casual romantic scenes in which he tries to impress his girlfriend.
Modern Times is one of my favorite Chaplin films because its narrative constantly evolves – it is a hilarious, sad, serious, and at the same time genuinely romantic film with incredible energy. I also like it because it is arguably the most honest and unglamorous of the Tramp films, and just as relevant today as it was in 1936.
Modern Times Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"This new high-definition digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on an ARRISCAN digital scanner from a 35mm fine-grain master positive that was wetgated from the original 35mm camera negative. Color correction of the 2K data was done using Assimilate's Scratch software. Pixel Farm's PFClean system was used to deflicker and stabilize the image, and to remove thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, and jitter. Additional marks and splices were removed using MTI's DRS system.
Transfer colorist and supervisor: Lee Kline.
Scanning technicians: Irene Messina, Adriana Noviello/Immagine Ritrovata, Bologna, Italy.
Film preservation and restoration: Davide Pozzi, Ariane Baudat, Marianna De Sanctis, Paola Ferrari, Michaela Tombolini/Immagine Retrovata, Bologna, Italy."
This is a very strong high-definition transfer, and one that conveys basic characteristics that are very similar to the ones observed on the high-definition transfer used by British distributors Park Circus for their Blu-ray release of Modern Times.
Fine object detail is very good, clarity impressive, and contrast levels consistent. The color-scheme does not disappoint either. Criterion have performed numerous fine corrections that enhance and at the same time balance well the variety of different blacks, grays and whites. Additionally, there are specific scenes where quite a bit of the mild background flicker present on the Park Circus release has been eliminated. Once again, however, I noticed traces of mild edge-enhancement and sharpening. But because of the overall darker and better balanced look the Criterion high-definition transfer has, they are a lot more difficult to spot. The film's grain structure is very much intact. Many of the close-ups from the second half of the film, for instance, look beautiful. Finally, there are no serious stability issues to report in this review (though some occasional frame transitions remain problematic). To sum it all up, the Criterion high-definition transfer has a slightly better balanced look in comparison to the high-definition transfer used by Park Circus. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Modern Times Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the original 35mm soundtrack print. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated workstation."
The English LPCM 1.0 track is very strong. It has a limited but pleasing dynamic amplitude, and there are absolutely no issues with the music score to report in this review. The few lines the actors utter are also clean and stable. Lastly, I did not detect any distracting pops, cracks, hissings, or dropouts.
Modern Times Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Commentary - an audio commentary, recorded exclusively for Criterion in 2010, by Chaplin biographer David Robinson. This is a very informative, factual commentary by Mr. Robinson, in which discusses the production history of Modern Times, its message, the socio-political conditions in America at the time when the film was made, Chaplin's career, etc. In English, not subtitled.
Modern Times: A Closer Look - a visual essay by Chaplin historian Jeffrey Vance, who discusses the film's production history, Chaplin's relationship with Paulette Goddard, the great actor's legacy, etc. In English, not subtitled. (17 min, 1080p).
A bucket of Water and a Glass Matte - visual and sound effects experts Craig Barron and Ben Burtt discuss the techniques utilized by Chaplin and his tech crew in Modern Times. In English, not subtitled. (21 min, 1080p).
Silent Traces: Modern Times - a visual essay offering a look at the numerous locations seen throughout Modern Times. The essay is narrated by John Bengtson, author of Silent Traces: Discovering Early Hollywood Through the Films of Charlie Chaplin. In English, not subtitled. (16 min, 1080p).
David Raksin and the Score - in this 1992 interview, film and television composer David Raksin, best remembered for his theme music for the film Laura (1944), recalls the four months he spent with Chaplin arranging the music for Modern Times. Also presented is a nine-minute piece of the original orchestral track, from the first factory sequence, without sound effects. In English, not subtitled. (16 min, 1080i).
Two Bits - two sections removed from Modern Times. The first was deleted by Chaplin before the film's original 1936 release and is silent. The second features the final verse of the Tramp's momentous song, which was removed in 1954 when Chaplin edited his film for rerelease.
-- Crossing the Street. (2 min, 1080i).
-- The Tramp's Song, unedited. (5 min, 1080i).
Three Trailers -
-- U.S. In English, not subtitled. (2 min, 1080i).
-- France. In French, with optional English subtitles. (3 min, 1080i).
-- Germany. In German, with optional English subtitles. (4 min, 1080i).
All at Sea - in 1933, journalist Alistair Cooke joined Chaplin and Paulette Goddard on Chaplin's yacht for a trip to Catalina Island. Cooke filmed the weekend voyage (which included Andy Anderson, a former Keystone Kop, among the crew) with his 8mm camera. This is the resulting eighteen-minute silent film, with an optional score by composer Donald Sosin, recorded for Criterion in 2010. Also included is an interview with Cooke's daughter, Susan Cooke Kittedge, recorded for Criterion in 2010.
-- Silent film (18 min, 1080i).
-- Susan Cooke Kittredge. In English, not subtitled. (14 min, 1080p).
The Rink - the eighth of twelve films Chaplin made for the Mutual Film Corporation, which was first screened in December 1916. The Tramp is a waiter in a upscale restaurant where everything that could possibly go wrong goes terribly wrong. (25 min, 1080i).
For the First Time - a short film by Cuban documentary filmmaker Octavio Cortazar, who followed a group of projectionists showing different films, amongst them Modern Times, to various rural communities. In Spanish, with optional English subtitles. (10 min, 1080i).
Chaplin Today: "Modern Times" - a documentary, produced by MK2TV, in which film directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne analyze Chaplin's film. In French, dubbed in English. In French and English, with optional English subtitles where necessary. (28 min, 1080i).
Booklet - 40-page illustrated booklet containing Saul Austerlitz's essay "Exit the Tramp", and Lisa Stein's essay "Chaplin Sees the World".
Modern Times Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
There are absolutely no surprises with Criterion's Blu-ray release of Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times - the presentation is very strong and the supplemental features outstanding. Let's hope that Criterion will be able to bring more of the iconic actor's films that have appeared on Blu-ray throughout Europe to the United States. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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