Charlie Chaplin’s last official ‘silent’ film, Modern Times is a comic but scabrous commentary on profiteering, industrialisation and changing society and values.
A film confined to sound affects, Chaplin finds himself on a production line desperately attempting to stay on-speed with the repetition of the work. Losing that job he is arrested and imprisoned as the leader of a trade union demonstration: released he finds himself, through the support of a homeless waif (Paulette Goddard), a singing waiter – even though he cannot sing.
It’s all a little crazy and somewhat anarchic – standard fare for Chaplin in the 1920s and 30s as his Depression-era farces are essentially played for laughs – but with an underlying humanity. Modern Times is cunning and biting slapstick with some inspired comedy moments, but its sentimentality and lack of depth results in a somewhat over-egged pudding that outstays its welcome.