Wednesday, June 13, 2012

On Further Review: Limelight (1952)

Only on screen Pairing of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton comes toward`the end of this very long, very dull (wrong sort of) old fashioned film.

The plot of the film has Chaplin playing a down on his luck music hall entertsiner. A lush, he drinks himself into oblivion to deal with life's disappointments. Coming home to his rooming house one day he smells gas. Breaking in to the rooom he rescues a young balletrina with a broken heart.  How the pair come together and begin to put their lives back on track is the film.

When I put this film on for this slot in this Buster Keaton week I rapidly realized that I had never seen the film before. Having seen it once, I'll never watch it again. Life is too short.

Who knew an ex-silent film star could be so talky? This film just goes on and on and on. Chaplin just prattles on and on, its terrible. Even the music hall sequences just go on and on.

The film is technically a mess especially with its over used bad rear screen. Its so over used that simple shots, like walking down a street,are done that way. Even worse many of the shots were shot with the principles so close to the screen you can see their shadows on the screen.

Okay, you're wondering, if the film is so bad, why are you mentioning the film? Simple Keaton. Keaton shows up in a couple of sequences at the end of the film.

One sequence involving Chaplin and Keaton has the pair trying to do a duet on piano and violin. Everything goes wrong as the strings begin to pop and snap and the violin ends up smashed. It’s a poorly paced piece, that is framed a bit too much to show off Chaplin.

Watching the pair of old pros go at it, you realize the different paths that that their careers took. Chaplin is behaving like what he was, a rich star who can walk through the paces, but doesn’t feel like really working. Keaton, ever the professional, sells it. He’s clearly invested in everything that’s going on. Chaplin not so much. I would have loved to have seen the sequence had Keaton staged it.

I’m a fan of both comedians, but it is telling since it shows how Keaton invests every moment of everything he did with everything he could. This is the reason that Keaton's films work start to finish and Chaplin’s films are a series of poorly connected classic sequences.

(In fairness Limelight is Chaplins last Hollywood film and I don’t think his whole heart was is in it which is why later films like Monsieur Verdoux play better.)

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