Film Review: The Real Charlie Chaplin

A young Charlie Chaplin

The silent era produced a number of famous faces and Hollywood stars, but the big three of comedy were Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin. Indeed, it’s the latter’s ‘Tramp’ which remains the most iconic visage from that period in today’s popular culture. With the likes of Modern Times, The Kid, City Lights and The Gold Rush, he made films which entranced and amused audiences around the world and are still highly regarded today.

However, while his talent and ability as a director and physical comedian are beyond doubt, his personal life was much more tumultuous. Despite growing up impoverished in London, his talent and work ethic provided him with a means of escape. He jumped at the opportunity and the rest is history. Off the screen, there was a string of teenage brides, persistent accusations of adultery and eventual exile from America. The Real Charlie Chaplin tells his story.

Using recently unearthed archive footage, clever reconstructions and personal archive, The Real Charlie Chaplin pieces together the great man’s life. Peter Middleton and James Spinne’s documentary is imaginatively structured, using a number of devices to illustrate their points. Narrated by Pearl Mackie, at times it plays out like a docudrama. A fascinating portrait of a man with many faces.

The Real Charlie Chaplin opens in cinemas on 18 February.

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