Reel Reviews

Chaplin (1992) - Blu-ray Review 15th Anniversary Edition

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Chaplin (1992) - Blu-ray Review

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3 Stars

There may be only one reason to see this film.  Maybe two if you are a fan of Charlie Chaplin, but – speaking from strictly the filmgoer’s point of view – the true value of this film lies with Robert Downey Jr’s inspired performance as the man who continues to make so many people laugh without even speaking a word.  Chaplin was the first Hollywood Superstar.  He was also a man of many, many personal flaws – namely women (the younger the better) – but his legacy far outnumbers the tight spots his personal life got him into…and, when it’s all said and done, the movies are what we remember.  In Sir Richard Attenborough’s Chaplin, however, it’s the performance we remember.

Structured around interviews conducted by George Hayden (Anthony Hopkins) from Chaplin’s home in Switzerland, Chaplin recounts his story from the living in the horrors of extreme poverty and life with a crazy mother (played by Chaplin’s own daughter, Geraldine Leigh Chaplin) to his humble vaudevillian beginnings and on to his success and defeat in America as the preeminent Hollywood star.  Co-starring Paul Rhys (as Chaplin’s brother, Sid), Moira Kelly, Kevin Kline, James Woods, Diane Lane, David Duchovany, Milla Jovovich, and Dan Aykroyd as Mac Sennett, Chaplin might be a film about the life and times of one Hollywood star, but it is filled with many modern ones.

Unfortunately, the actors and their performances don’t help to improve the very structure of the film – which is its biggest fault.  The fictional character Hopkins plays sets this film up for biopic forgetfulness in that the whole Q & A session woven into where the story takes place isn’t the stuff of lucidity.  It’s grossly handled and cumbersome and so very staged; the rest of the film follows suite.  There’s a reverential glow about the film and its subject which threatens to tear the film apart several times because so very little of its constructs feel natural.  Harmless?  I’m sure it is.  Attenborough did the same thing with Gandhi and he loves Chaplin, so why not honor the man with a movie which handles him as a victimized deity?  The problem is that such reverence renders this film as fairly sterile and harmless…when Chaplin’s life was anything but.

The fact that there is any interest in the film 15 years after its initial release is on the shoulder of one man: Downey.  This is a lightning bolt of a performance in a role he almost didn’t get because of his own personal problems.  Call this his salvation.  Inspired and magical from the start; Downey doesn’t let you believe for one second that his acting the part.  He is Chaplin.  Let’s stress the word performance.  Performance.  Downey doesn’t pretend to be Chaplin.  He doesn’t mock the actions of the comedic genius (like so many actors in biopics – Val Kilmer, Jamie Foxx - get away with).  No Downey lives in that skin; he breathes in the Chaplin we love so much and gives a slam dunk of a performance that is to be envied by any actor asked to play a famous person.  Downey steals the show and, as Charlie Chaplin, he should.

Downey was nominated for Best Actor in 1993 for his performance in Chaplin and, in a Chaplin-like turnabout of love and loss, lost out to Al Pacino’s disgruntled “Hoo-yah” charm.  That doesn’t mean that Downey’s performance wasn’t better than Pacino’s, it just means Scent of a Woman was the better movie.  And it’s true.  It is better than the overlong and clumsy Chaplin – by a long shot, but, if it wasn’t for Downey’s performance, we wouldn’t be talking about the film today as it sees its 15th Anniversary release on blu-ray.

Is Scent of a Woman out on blu-ray (in the states) yet?

Checkmate.

{pgomakase}

{2jtab: Film Info}

Chaplin (1992) - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: PG-13 for nudity and language.
Director
: Richard Attenborough
Writer
: William Boyd and Bryan Forbes and William Goldman
Cast:
Robert Downey, Jr.; Geraldine Chaplin; Moira Kelly; Anthony Hopkins; Dan Aykroyd; Marisa Tomei
Genre
: Biography | Drama
Tagline:
He made the whole world laugh and cry. He will again.
Memorable Movie Quote:
"Did you lose your other wives this way?"
Distributor:
TriStar Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
December 25, 1992
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
February 15, 2011

Synopsis: A film about the troubled and controversial life of the master comedy filmmaker.

{pgomakase}

{2jtab: Blu-ray Details}

Chaplin - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
3 Stars

2 stars



Blu-ray Experience
2.5 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - February 25, 2011
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, French, Spanish
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)

Chaplin's AVC encoded 1080p image in 1.85:1 is, in a word, disappointing.  This is the exact same print from the DVD special edition released a couple of years ago.  Nothing has been changed or transferred accordingly to get the print up to HD standards.  No restoration.  No cleaning of the print, just the same dark picture we saw in its last two incarnations on DVD.  Truly, a sad thing to witness as this print has been through the ringer and is sub par and pale even at its best moments.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

Again, disappointing as nothing new has been produced for the release. One would think that with the Chaplin pictures beginning to trickle out from Criterion (Modern Times), there would be some interest in trying to merge the two vehicles to produce something new and memorable. Instead we get what we got before…not much.

The supplemental material is as follows:

  • Strolling into the Sunset (7 min)
  • Chaplin the Hero (6 min)
  • The Most Famous Man in the World (5 min)
  • All at Sea (2 min)
  • Theatrical Trailer

{2jtab: Trailer}

No trailer available

{pgomakase}

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