Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Day 103: The Kid

Ranking on IMDb Top 250: #193
Year: 1921
Director: Charlie Chaplin
Starring: Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan

Okay, before we dive into this thing, a few stray observations: Through the poster above, famous stills from the film, and the few clips I had seen, I thought The Kid's Jackie Coogan was a girl. Imagine my surprise when I found out that the character and the actor are both, indeed, boys. Second, The Kid is officially the oldest movie I've ever seen, which I somehow feel is worth noting. Now, onto a duly short post on what is undoubtedly the shortest film in the IMDb Top 250. Clocking in at a mere 50 minutes – just a hair longer an hour-broadcast television episode – The Kid is nonetheless a crucial entry in the canon of American film. As its opening title card proclaims, the heartwarming dramedy brings "smiles – and perhaps a tear." With no sound and no advanced filming techniques, Charlie Chaplin effectively transfers human emotion to celluloid as well as anyone could be expected to under those circumstances.

In its brief running time, The Kid introduces a distressed mother abandoning her baby when she decides to commit suicide, the accidental adoption of said baby by a charming, mustachioed tramp (Chaplin, duh), the mother's change of heart and quest to find her child, the bond that the tramp forms with the boy, and the final, happy union of these three (arguably) kindred souls. As far as plot goes, only about three or four things of consequence actually happen; most of the film's value lies in its countless physical gags and its terse emotionalism. Chaplin sells the beautiful semi-fatherly bond he has with little Jackie Coogan with his mannerisms and facial expressions, and once that's established, the sky is the limit with the gags. In a particularly impressive one, Coogan throws rocks at windows while Chaplin poses as a traveling window salesman, walking one step behind him to replace the broken glass. It's an endearing sequence, and not smiling during it is irrefutable evidence for the lack of a soul.

Aaaaand, there's not much else to say about The Kid. It's a charming, brief film that is among Chaplin's best-known for good reason. It only takes as long to watch as a rerun of Law & Order, so you really have no excuse not to watch it.

The Good: I absolutely love the "traveling window salesman" bit.

The Bad: I wish Chaplin went back and did narration once the technology developed like he did for The Gold Rush. It would make some of the less exciting sequences more interesting.

The Skinny: I can dig it at #193.

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