The Great Dictator (1940)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Great Dictator</strong> (1940)

(On Cable TV, March 2018) Charlie Chaplin is most closely associated with the silent film era, so it’s interesting to see the ways through which he approached The Great Dictator, a full feature film in which he speaks … and carries a heck of a message. Famously made to criticize Hitler, the film is filled with Nazi imagery, depicting of life under a fascist regime and a strong message against tyranny. It works both at the micro and the macro level, leveraging small injustices in an effort to talk about bigger ones. Chaplin also manages to deliver a fiercely political statement with the confines of an often-silly comedy. (And if you think that being against authoritarianism isn’t much a political statement, you may want to pay attention to news coming out of the United States these days.)  There are numerous comic set pieces, made even more remarkable for the film’s position in history in laughing at a situation whose true horrifying nature would only be revealed in later years. It all amounts to a film that’s fun to watch for the jokes, and fascinating to contemplate for the context surrounding the jokes. A classic for a reason, The Great Dictator is an impressive achievement.

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