Chaplin (Richard Attenborough, 1992)

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aox
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Chaplin (Richard Attenborough, 1992)

#1 Post by aox » Tue Jul 02, 2013 2:17 pm

I searched and didn't see a thread. But I want to offer some quick thoughts:

Let's discuss this film.

I don't know if this is a product of being young, but this came out when I was 12, and already considering myself a lover of both history and film, I instantly thought this was a fantastic film. It was huge and took on tremendous scope. I wouldn't even see an actual Chaplin film until years later. My opinion of Chaplin has changed and changed again throughout the past twenty years since its release with each viewing. RDj is IMO, clearly the highlight of this film and it remains one of his best performances. From a bio-pic perspective, I think Downey's performance is one of the best portrayals (performance) of a historical figure in film, even if the film can't live up to its ambitions. But the supporting cast does a lot here as well. Especially Dan Aykroyd who was still going through his "dramatic acting period" and coasting off Driving Miss Daisy. Klein as Fairbanks is fantastic as well.

Bio-pics have the unenviable charge of balancing the historical events and exploring the person behind those events. It's a thin line that can easily sink a film. If I had to choose, I would say Chaplin falls into the former. It covers a lot of ground throughout his life. And while the fictional encounter with his editor (Hopkins) reveals some helpful exposition, I feel that there is never a scene that properly addresses Chaplin's motivations and the film offers little insight into his convictions. It seems that his entire career was to get married, make a movie, find a new wife::::repeat. The film tends to avoid the more controversial aspects of his career (despite the underage wife). In fact, I would suggest this is hero-worship to some degree.

The film teeters on saying that his entire career was accidental and circumstantial. According to IMDB, the original cut that was first assembled was 4 hours, and I would really like to see this cut to see if it fleshes out Chaplin himself. But I know there is little interest in this film from the studio or Attenborough. They can't even seem to be bothered to release a decent disc of it (DVD or BD).

There are some questionable stylistic decisions here as well. Such as doing slapstick silent era scenes to move the film along. They don't bother me all that much but since they were pointed out to me many years ago, they do seem to stick out.

What are your thoughts on this film?
Last edited by aox on Tue Jul 02, 2013 2:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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knives
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Re: Chaplin (Richard Attenborough, 1992)

#2 Post by knives » Tue Jul 02, 2013 2:20 pm

It's an awful hagiography made by a director full of such bloated self importance and lacking in such talent only when he hated what he was doing did he do anything of competence. It's a lie to history, treats its audience with contempt (the aforementioned slapstick bits, and wastes a perfectly good lead performance.

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aox
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Re: Chaplin (Richard Attenborough, 1992)

#3 Post by aox » Tue Jul 02, 2013 2:24 pm

knives wrote:It's an awful hagiography made by a director full of such bloated self importance and lacking in such talent only when he hated what he was doing did he do anything of competence. It's a lie to history, treats its audience with contempt (the aforementioned slapstick bits, and wastes a perfectly good lead performance.
Is it so much a lie, or an omission trying to use its run-time as justification?

It doesn't even mention Thomas Ince.

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knives
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Re: Chaplin (Richard Attenborough, 1992)

#4 Post by knives » Tue Jul 02, 2013 2:30 pm

The film often down plays the contributions of other people or even portrays them as stupid, untalented doofs to play up Chaplin's supposed genius. I don't care about the lack on Ince (I've got The Cat's Meow for that), but the text that is present. The film even jumps into sexism with regard to that one ex and Mabel Normand.

Iamhere
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Re: Chaplin (Richard Attenborough, 1992)

#5 Post by Iamhere » Tue Jul 02, 2013 4:18 pm

I remember Roger Ebert reviewing the movie.. and for the first time I agreed with him. I'll paraphrase;
The film is only interested in his dirty behind the scenes acts with women and when it comes to his art it goes quickly and we're supposed to assume it was genius in one take. We know that Chaplin did take after take after take to get something just right. that's what I want to see. I want to see the artist crafting his work and the effort into that. not his sex life to shame the icon.

When I saw it for the first time I probably only saw two Chaplin movies and this got my interested in seeing more (so I suppose that's a positive). After watching more Chaplin films I disregarded and had the above opinion (same happened with my interest in Bob Dylan music when "I'm Not there came out" where I now dislike the film and love the man it's based off of).

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Dylan
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Re: Chaplin (Richard Attenborough, 1992)

#6 Post by Dylan » Tue Jul 02, 2013 4:24 pm

Its been many, many years since I saw this, but I certainly didn't think it was a bad movie by any stretch. It has beautiful Sven Nykvist photography and one of John Barry's best scores, and that's good enough for me.

The main criticism of Chaplin, both now and then, seems to be that it's a film about a funny person that isn't very funny itself. Fosse's Lenny also got this criticism. Which actually raises an interesting question - does a film about a funny person need to be funny?

William Goldman devoted a passage in this book Which Lie Did I Tell? about the writing of Chaplin. I read it and while my memory is a bit fuzzy, I seem to recall him saying that the final script was more or less a composite of several different drafts & that more writers worked on it than were credited.

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flyonthewall2983
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Re: Chaplin (Richard Attenborough, 1992)

#7 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Tue Jul 02, 2013 5:16 pm

Never have seen this, but I liked the story David Duchovny told about his role on Dinner For Five, that cameramen back then would hum a tune to themselves to keep cranking the camera at the right speed. And that his process of doing it for the movie was to hum "Beast of Burden" to himself.

greggster59
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Re: Chaplin (Richard Attenborough, 1992)

#8 Post by greggster59 » Tue Jul 02, 2013 8:32 pm

I can re-watch it now and again for Downey's excellent portrayal but would not argue with any of the criticisms in this thread about the film itself.

It would be interesting to try and think of any biopics, in particular about people in the arts and entertainment world, that do a good job with their subject. Every film I've seen portraying an artist, actor or musician, either makes them seem too heroic (Chaplin and Ali, for example) or overly focuses on their weakness (Bird and Hitchcock).

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Matt
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Re: Chaplin (Richard Attenborough, 1992)

#9 Post by Matt » Tue Jul 02, 2013 8:43 pm

Perhaps a biopics list project is in order?

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knives
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Re: Chaplin (Richard Attenborough, 1992)

#10 Post by knives » Tue Jul 02, 2013 8:52 pm

I'm sure Andrie Rublev or something typical like it would top though it does pose the interesting question of how to judge something as a film and a bio-pic since those qualities often seem in opposition.

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swo17
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Re: Chaplin (Richard Attenborough, 1992)

#11 Post by swo17 » Tue Jul 02, 2013 8:53 pm

We have this thread for starters.

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domino harvey
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Re: Chaplin (Richard Attenborough, 1992)

#12 Post by domino harvey » Tue Jul 02, 2013 9:03 pm

I was going to make a Factory Girl joke and then saw I already did six years ago. I pray my eventual biopic accurately captures the timeless relevancy of my comic targets

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zedz
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Re: Chaplin (Richard Attenborough, 1992)

#13 Post by zedz » Wed Jul 03, 2013 12:38 am

Matt wrote:Perhaps a biopics list project is in order?
A generally godawful genre that happens to contain several of the greatest films ever made (Andrey Rublyov, Edvard Munch, The Colour of Pomegranates, Van Gogh, The Passion of Joan of Arc, The Bill Douglas Trilogy, Every Man for Himself and God Against All, Superstar. . .)

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Cold Bishop
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Re: Chaplin (Richard Attenborough, 1992)

#14 Post by Cold Bishop » Wed Jul 03, 2013 12:40 am

And Once Upon a Time in China :)

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tojoed
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Re: Chaplin (Richard Attenborough, 1992)

#15 Post by tojoed » Wed Jul 03, 2013 1:09 am

... and Gance's " Grand amour de Beethoven".

bamwc2
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Re: Chaplin (Richard Attenborough, 1992)

#16 Post by bamwc2 » Wed Jul 03, 2013 8:59 am

I'd definitely be up for a biopic genre vote when the documentaries project is over. It's a tricky genre that most filmmakers who attempt it fail at, but it can be done superbly. Some favorites off the top of my head that haven't been mentioned yet include Chameleon Street, JFK (Plumbing the depths of Jim Garrison's tortured psyche), Abe Lincoln in Illinois (discussed this one in the WB archive thread yesterday), 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould, Zodiac (see JFK comment), El Cid, The Flowers of St. Francis (more of an ensemble biopic, I suppose), etc.

As for Chaplin, I'm the same age as aox and probably watched the film half a dozen times on Showtime in 1993. I don't remember much about it other than my early teenage vow to marry Milla Jovovichand and a growing hatred of Dan Aykroyd after watching Nothing But Trouble around the same time (though to be fair, it was more of a pox on everyone involved).

On a side note, my freshman year of college I decided that I would make a biopic of Doris Wishman. Would anyone like to put up some money for this long dormant project?

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Matt
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Re: Chaplin (Richard Attenborough, 1992)

#17 Post by Matt » Wed Jul 03, 2013 10:21 am

bamwc2 wrote:On a side note, my freshman year of college I decided that I would make a biopic of Doris Wishman. Would anyone like to put up some money for this long dormant project?
If it's done in the style of Wishman (sort of like Ed Wood was done in the style of Ed Wood), I would put up a significant portion of the budget ($40).

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colinr0380
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Re: Chaplin (Richard Attenborough, 1992)

#18 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Jul 03, 2013 2:47 pm

Cold Bishop wrote:And Once Upon a Time in China :)
Paired with the other Jet Li double of The Legend of Fong Sai-Yuk and its sequel, I hope!

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Mr Sausage
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Re: Chaplin (Richard Attenborough, 1992)

#19 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Jul 03, 2013 4:06 pm

colinr0380 wrote:
Cold Bishop wrote:And Once Upon a Time in China :)
Paired with the other Jet Li double of The Legend of Fong Sai-Yuk and its sequel, I hope!
Which one can further pair with Fist of Legend and Fearless, in which Jet plays both the assassinated historical figure and the student who avenges him--in reverse order!

bamwc2
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Re: Chaplin (Richard Attenborough, 1992)

#20 Post by bamwc2 » Wed Jul 03, 2013 5:42 pm

Matt wrote:
bamwc2 wrote:On a side note, my freshman year of college I decided that I would make a biopic of Doris Wishman. Would anyone like to put up some money for this long dormant project?
If it's done in the style of Wishman (sort of like Ed Wood was done in the style of Ed Wood), I would put up a significant portion of the budget ($40).
Yes, it will be done as an early "nudie cutie" in that everyone will be fully nude, but holding some random object over their crotches.

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