jack’s review published on Letterboxd:
95 (up from 86)
Film often considered an art form; for us, it's the highest form of art, as we dedicate numerous viewings to classics we love or unseen requirements, countless hours of discussion amongst friends and family about a certain future, or the timeless efforts we put forth writing a great analysis on a film we adore or maybe even writing a potential film we would love to create at any given opportunity. Film brings out debates -whether Scorsese's masterpiece is Raging Bull, Goodfellas, or Taxi Driver, if superhero films nowadays offer any sort of representation amongst their makers, or if Academy Award Nominated The Boss Baby was snubbed for a Best Picture nomination- and it brings up arguments, agreements, and the like. Film brings people together and film brings others apart. It's the beat in our hearts, as film fans, as fans of the craft and the artistry of the form.
But film isn't just a form of art that results in praise and criticism. For many, it's a therapeutic outlet. Film allows you to travel to the deepest of oceans or the darkest of space; they help you ease yourself from reality and the stressfulness of life. They help you heal, from previous years of abuse or extremely traumatic events or attempting to recover from a serious time in your time. Art imitates life, none more so than with Charlie Chaplin and his first feature film, The Kid.
Charlie Chaplin was our most beloved artist; history has noted his greatness and morphed him into a God of Cinema -directing, producing, writing, composing, shooting, acting. What can't he do?- and his status is legendary. Yet what The Kid does, even in comparison with his future works, is humanize a cinematic Titan. Chaplin grew up in the most harshest living conditions, trying to survive in a poverty stricken surrounding that seems to shun humanity from prospering and crushing any sort of dream of escaping these harsh times. Chaplin also faced abandonment in his childhood; his beloved mother suffered psychosis and was admitted to an asylum, leaving Chaplin to live with his alcoholic father in abusive circumstances and eventually dying. Chaplin had to grow up at an age where adulthood shouldn't have been literally breathing down his neck, yet this shaped him. Perhaps the most saddest of all was losing his first child a mere ten days before production of The Kid was set in motion.
You can say many things about The Kid and its connection with Chaplin's personal life. Abandonment and poverty are clear themes of the film, yet the most important is the symbol of the small boy, portrayed by Jackie Coogan. To me (and I'm sure many of you), this boy represents Chaplin in different stages of life. At five years old, "The Kid" has already adapted to his poverty surroundings, scavenging for things to do amongst dilapidation and sadness, and helping his father work so that they can have some food for the night. Chaplin had to do these things at such a young age and even more so, the iconic separation scene shows "The Kid" crying out to his father, confused at the events unfolding and the anger at these men trying to separate from his father. This is Chaplin confronting his feeling of abandonment -from his parents and from his world that morphed him. He's shown, through the child's eyes because this is the only way for him to heal; he sees his childhood as lost and by having this child represent him in this pivotal scene, allows him to cope with these events visually and spiritually as an adult. The Dream sequence represents Chaplin's longing for a perfect world: "The Kid" is no longer missing (his son is still alive, he gets a beautiful girl (his first marriage was failing), everyone in his neighborhood is happy (poverty stripped of its ideas), and everything is in harmony. This is the dream Chaplin longs for, until he's awaken from reality. It's time to confront his past and move on to the future.
John Lennon used his debut solo album, John Lennon/ The Plastic Ono Band, as a form of healing from his past. He incorporated his pain into each song -his feeling of abandonment, his abuse, and his anger all metaphorically strung into the heart and soul of each song off the album. Chaplin, like Lennon, uses his film medium. The Kid, besides being a masterpiece, is a therapeutic release; a cathartic and emotional realization of Chaplin. He is no longer only that cinematic God. He's now human and people are able to relate to him. As the picture says:
"A picture with a smile--and perhaps, a tear.”