Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Kid (1921): Mini-Review

One of those films I really should write five thousand words about, The Kid was Charlie Chaplin's first feature-length film, a Dickensian-style dramedy about a tramp who finds an abandoned baby in the gutter and raises him as his own. Not only was it a box office blockbuster, it inspired Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd to make features of their own.

We owe The Kid a lot.

This marked the first time Chaplin successfully mixed comedy and pathos. He'd made stabs at it in such shorts as The Tramp and The Vagabond, but here, he pulls it off. I rank it third on my list of favorite Chaplin films, behind City Lights and The Gold Rush.

As close to perfect as you're likely to get in this world. 5 stars out of 5.

I've written quite a bit about Chaplin in the past, especially here, and for those of you who care about these things, it struck me on this repeat viewing how much of The Kid is a re-working of Chaplin's earlier work. There's the story arc of a mother haunted by the loss of her child as in 1916's The Vagabond, a street fight with a bully on what looks like the same set as 1917's Easy Street, and the raising a foundling storyline from 1918's A Dog's Life (there a dog, here Jackie Coogan).

In The Kid, he stitches these subplot together to reach emotional highs and lows greater than the sum of the parts. Must-see.

A note on the viewing experience: Katie-Bar-The-Door and I saw this at the Meyerhoff in Baltimore with the BSO providing the live musical accompaniment based on Chaplin's own score. A word to the wise: the screen is up high, above the musicians, so unless you want to scrunch down in your seat and crane your neck for an hour and a half, buy seats in the mezzanine.

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