Friday, 17 October 2008


Early in October we took in some old Charlie Chaplin movies at BFI Southbank cinemas . We saw The Champion, A Night Out and His New Job - all from 1916 during his period with Essanay.

It's strange to watch them now - what was comedic genius then sometimes looks like a bunch of repetitive pratfalls when you're used to all that self-referential wordiness we apparently like in comedies. But there is something special about Chaplin himself, especially in scenes where it's just the camera and Charlie, mesmerising you with his graceful movements and wide-eyed mischief. There was a live piano player providing the music as well, so the whole experience was very pleasant - although the cinema was so warm and comfortable it was hard to stay awake. Too hard, in The Boyfriend's case.

It put me in the mood to watch one of my favourite movies, Chaplin. But I think The Boyfriend declared himself to be Chaplin-ed out and we watched Happy-Go-Lucky instead. I definitely enjoyed it, and am baffled about how Sally Hawkins managed to make her character Poppy so charming, when she was so potentially annoying. I've never met anyone so ceaselessly optimistic and chatty in real life but I suspect I'd find it exhausting at best.

It's also really interesting to watch movies set in London now that I have more of a handle on the geography and can impress myself by recognising landmarks and areas without being specifically informed by the movie where they are. Although (other than noting Regent's Park) the best I could do with Happy-Go-Lucky was identify the area Poppy lived in as "north London". That's a pretty big area.

The movie also involves a driving instructor who goes more than slightly off the rails. This reminded me a little of the time my driving instructor decided that the best time to convert me to born-again Christianity would be the drive home after failing my test for the second time. He must have sensed I was in a moment of vulnerability. After that the driving school sent in their director to see what was wrong with me. I think the only new tip she gave me was to release the handbrake as I engaged it so as not to wear the mechanism out, or something.


Jrod said...

Not sure if you have ever seen Modern Times or The Great Dictator, but they are my favourite Chaplin films.

Lauren in London said...

No I haven't seen either, but they're on the list (of movies to see).

marmitelover said...

Chaplin was never really appreciated by the British. He's a far bigger hero in France.
Happy go Lucky is a nice film but not one of my favourite Mike Leigh films. Sally Hawkins is always good though.