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This weekend, several of Charlie Chaplin's films will be screened at BAM in a series called Chaplin in 35mm, from early career favorites to his controversial last feature.
This is not the start of BAM's, or the world's, preoccupation with Chaplin. His grandson, James Thiérrée, is a BAM Next Wave favorite, dazzling audiences in his nouveau cirque company's productions of Bright Abyss (2005), Au Revoir Parapluie (2008), and Raoul (2010). It also is apparent that Chaplin is What We Talk About When We Talk About Silent Film—during the 2005 Buster Keaton retrospective at BAM, several critics couldn't help but compare Keaton's films to his rival/friend's Chaplin's. (In our post-Mean Girls era, can we use the word frenemy?)
In 2009, BAM presented the series The Late Film, featuring work from many renowned directors' late periods. New Yorker film writer Richard Brody chose to focus his blog on a film BAM had missed—Chaplin's last, A King in New York (1957).
It feels only right that BAM—whose Harvey (formerly Majestic) Theater thrived during the silent era and recently unveiled its Steinberg Screen—crowns Chaplin the King of Brooklyn for the weekend. As the late critic Roger Ebert said about Chaplin's City Lights, "It contains the slapstick, the pathos, the pantomime, the effortless physical coordination, the melodrama, the bawdiness, the grace, and, of course, the Little Tramp—the character said, at one time to be the most famous image on earth.” The iconic Chaplin's ability to make us laugh never overshadows his ability to move us.