Friday, 10 March 2017

The Kid (1921)

Fig 1 - The Kid Poster
The Kid is the first feature-film of cinematic legend Charlie Chaplin, who would go on to obtain close to a hundred writing and acting credits within the legacy of his filmography. As with The General, this was a second milestone for me in that I had never seen a Charlie Chaplin film before. And comparisons with Buster Keaton's animated qualities were certainly not amiss.

The opening of the film sees a single mother (Edna Purviance) leave her newborn son in the back of a car, in the hopes that by orphaning him he'll be given a better life than she can provide. A few scenes later, the newborn winds up deserted in a back alley at which point a jaunty 'tramp' (Charlie Chaplin) stumbles upon the child and, after numerous attempts to pawn him off to someone else, takes it upon himself to raise 'the kid'. Five years later we follow the two in their schemes and witness their tribulations, whilst in the background the mother who abandoned him struggles to reconcile with her decision.

The Kid is a beautifully crafted piece of work with some genuinely moving moments, strung together with the help of the score which (at least in the 1971 re-release composed by none other than Chaplin himself) brings a whole other dimension to the narrative on-screen. From the moment Chaplin first waddles into view, the score seems to resonate with his behavior and instantly we recognize him as our protagonist.

I'm finding it difficult not to compare this with The General as I've seen them both in quick succession and they clearly stem from a similar vein of film-making. Chaplin's performance is slightly more reserved and nuanced than Keaton's, though you'd expect that since at no point do we find Chaplin train-surfing in this picture. It also didn't produce as many belly-laughs but remained absolutely enjoyable with much stronger character studies.

Fig 2 - The Kid - Dream Sequence
The Kid also featured some very contemporary techniques though, and didn't rely on dialogue cards to hold the viewers' hand. For instance, what must have been one of the first examples of a dream-sequence plays out towards the end of the film, which to me really served as an additional joke in itself. This poor man's wildest dreams involve everyone existing as angelic flying beings (including dogs) in flower-abundant versions of their current dwellings. Beautiful.

Overall I would say for a first outing in the realm of big-league cinema, Charlie Chaplin made a fantastic entrance and I look forward to any and all of his films that I might happen upon next.



Fig. 1 The Kid Poster (1921) From: The Kid - Directed by: Charles Chaplin

Fig. 2 The Kid Screenshot (1921) From: The Kid - Directed by: Charles Chaplin

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