CRITERION CARAVAN: THE KID (1921)
Continuing my journey through the Criterion Collection, as available on Hulu Plus. My second stop was Chaplin’s iconic The Kid, which I’ve managed to never see before despite its iconic status.
I’ll confess I’ve never been a huge Chaplin fan. To me, Buster Keaton is the far superior silent film star, combining a pathos with his comedy that Chaplin could never approach. I always found Chaplin full of a combination of too much whimsy and too much pedantic soapboxing. But give film critics a few shovelfuls of schoolboy Marxist symbolism and they’ll dub you the most important filmmaker in history too. But his funny moustache and walk have always been too precious for me to warm up to. In my mind, he all but invented twee. The line from Chaplin to Williamsburg is a straight one. Also, David Niven’s memoirs have some great stories about what a windbag he was.
Given all that, I enjoyed The Kid. It did not change my mind that Keaton is far superior. But the wackyness was wackily fun, if a little safe feeling. And the part when the kid gets taken away from Chaplin is genuinely heartbreaking. It wasn’t an eye-opening, life changing experience watching this one, it didn’t convert me. But when Chaplin lets loose with his circus-like energy with his limbs flying around like some runaway windmills, its hard to look away.
You should all join me for a cinema club and make this tour through the Collection with me. It’s not a perfect collection - what could be - but if like me you have some big gaps in your international film knowledge in particular, it is a pretty good place to start, especially as via Hulu Plus, and some iTunes, some Netflix, this broad collection is easily and cheaply available. So why not? 400 films from now I guarantee we’ll be richer minds for it. And we who make it all the way through will form bonds that will last the rest of our lives.
Come aboard, watch The Kid in the next couple days and send me your thoughts, and I’ll do a round-up post of members comments.
Next up: The 1922 Swedish study of medieval witchcraft Haxan.