I was very pleasantly surprised by Charlie: The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin – Itâs a two-hour documentary, narrated by Sydney Pollack, that uses the time line of Charlie Chaplinâs life to tell his biography. Itâs very detailed, and covers Chaplinâs life from itsâ very earliest to the time of his death, with exposition on his films along the way, from his silent short films at Keystone to his final films. Interspersed with the biography are snippets from Chaplinâs family, including some of his children, as well as some of the people who worked with him. In addition, there is commentary from other film clowns. Normally, I detest commentaries like this, since either the people donât have anything to add, or donât have expertise on the subject. I gladly make an exception in this case, since the comments are both insightful, and from people who definitely know what they’re talking about, such as Marcel Marceau, Bill Irwin, and Richard Attenborough.
Even some people that Iâm not a fan of, such as Woody Allen (nothing personal against Mr. Allenâhis style of comedy simply doesn’t appeal to me) have insightful comments. For example, Johnny Depp talks about how, in his film Benny and Joon , where he as to duplicate Charlie Chaplinâs famous âdance of the dinner rollsâ how it took him three weeks of study to get it right – how he had to copy not only Charlieâs hand movements, but his arm and shoulder movements in an almost ballet-like moment.
I enjoyed Charlie: The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin very much, and recommend it as a warm, friendly biography of Charlie Chaplin, that doesn’t overlook his flaws and warts, and gives a very balanced view of the most famous film clown ever. I saw it on Turner Classic Movies, and itâs also available on DVD as part of The Chaplin Collection volume 2.