Sunday, 7 June 2015

The Kid (1921) Just as powerful 90 years on!

Verdict: Emotionally sincere, and full of whimsical comedy: The Kid still holds up today as a beautiful work of cinema.

Plot: A woman abandons her child in a car, as she can no longer take care of him. When she leaves the baby in a car, that happens to belong to criminals, the baby is abandoned by the criminals at an ally way. Along comes the tramp who tries to get rid of the baby himself, and ends up taking him in as his father. Five or six years later, we see the tramp with his child through a series of antics.

I decided that I must re-write my review of this film, as now my writing has improved. I first watched the film a full year ago and this was my second viewing. Watching it for the second time was a special thing. My first viewing was when I first truly began to love Chaplin’s work.

The Kid is Chaplin’s first feature film, with a small runtime of 60 minutes. It is not sophisticated in style and is very simplistic, but beautiful filmmaking. And you know what? It is a masterpiece. From start to end Chaplin’s comedy and tear-provoking drama of heartbreak and sentiment makes his feature debut one of his finest works. It is potent and poignant in emotion, and has some very clever gags, thanks to Chaplin’s perfectionistic ways.

The simple thing with this film is it is perfect; there is nothing to stop it being masterful in its craft. While it is not immersive like other masterpieces such as Pulp Fiction, City of God and a more relevant example Metropolis (1927), the film is flawless in its comic style and every scene is beautifully handled with care. The film has nice cinematography, that is not elaborate, or intense, but carries each scene with care.

I cannot leave without giving mention to the powerfully simplistic emotion that Chaplin brings to the screen that is so accessible; I would find it hard for someone not to feel something during this film. It is no real secret, and the scene goes like this: the tramp is with his child, who has taken ill, and child services comes to take the child away to an orphanage. The tramp is held back as they take his child and it is a surprisingly powerful piece of silent cinema that holds you firmly with the moment. The perfectly composed music score and expression on Jackie Coogan’s (the child) face make it an emotional moment.

The inspiration of the film came out of a great tragedy and heartache to Chaplin in 1919. His son Norman was born in July 7 1919, and was born disfigured, dying just 3 days later. Roughly, five days after this tragically intense news, he came across a young child actor named Jackie Coogan, who at the age of seven could impersonate Chaplin’s tramp character movements and other comic acts. The boy inspired Chaplin and soon asked his father Jack Coogan if he could make films tarring the child, which led to the filming of The Kid. If these turn of events did not occur, we would not have The Kid today to watch with awe and enjoyment.

It may be worth watching The Kid first as it shows what Chaplin’s films are truly about: sentiment, comedy and emotion. The Kid combines all three for a recipe of graceful cinema. Whatever your opinions are on silent movies; you cannot deny his influence and artistry of his time. The Kid was a leap in comedy at the time as he combines slapstick and sentiment, and showed filmmakers it could be done.

In the end of Chaplin’s long filming, (that spanned over 10 months), he had ended up shooting 50 times the amount of footage to the hour. Thus, the ratio is 50:1. Even now, that is an incredible amount of hours to have for a film at such a runtime, and back then, reels were no cheap thing. Chaplin shot 50 hours of footage, and his film ended up being 60 minutes long. This truly shows how much of a perfectionist he was in his craft, and the effort definitely pays off.

Here we are 90 years on, and people are still watching The Kid commending its comic efforts. If a film that is older than most people’s grandparents, that can still be enjoyable so many years on, then that truly says something about that film. The Kid is truly a timeless classic that should remain a heartfelt silent masterpiece for years to come.

Originall written 31st July 2013



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