February 9, 1936 [Modern Times]

The unemployment rate is closer to 20% than anyone wants it to be--but Chaplin works, and works, and works, his Modern Times racketing along--albeit still in almost-silence--recording his helpless submission to, consumption by, and revolt against the machine.

Many--well, almost 20% of us--might envy his employment; but Chaplin does his best to warn us from such perilous hope. The contraption force-feeds him, a crammed silly goose whose hunger is seasoned with panic. And he in turn feeds the gears, is ground up and spit out--like the frames of the very film we're watching--to dance The Manufacturer's Ballet as a wind-up, wrench-handling assembly-line madman, tightening everything in sight, nipples, noses, and buttons pursued in a frenzy of mis-production.

But all is not lost: He meets Paulette Goddard, the sweetest Gamin one could hope for, and nothing--not the asylum, the communists, the emptiest of stomachs--can stop them from the open road, and the proclamation that they will smile. The Gamin asks, "What's the use of trying?" while the prettiest song I've heard in years leaves us no choice but to understand her, and cry with her, and smile with Charlie.


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