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In a silent movie kind of way

For the first time, I see his face in real close-up. Every feature capable of expressing an endless variety of emotions. Fluidly we see compassion and confusion, fear and indignity, happiness and melancholy drift across his face like patches of sunlight over a busy city square; buzzing with people, street vendors, noisy mopeds and crusty pigeons. His famous mustache dances daintily and his eyebrows lead a life of their own. The tramp has so much to say in that silent movie kind of way. Here is a scene from that wonderful Charlie Chaplin classic: Modern Times.

Charlie Chaplin has been providing fun for over a century. My grandfather, born in 1908, must have been about six years old. His father worked for the Dutch government and as a festive gesture, the British ambassador had invited its relations and their families to a special Christmas celebration at the embassy. At this event, my grandfather – Conny – and his brothers were treated to a selection of Charlie Chaplin films. For them, it was their very first introduction to actual moving images, a whole new way of storytelling. Sitting in the dark, trembling with cinematic anticipation. A mechanical click, the soft purr of the projector and as the lights appear on the screen the slapstick action slowly comes into focus: That famous silhouette: bow-legged, bowler hat, bendy cane and floppy shoes. It must have been heaven for those boys…

Here’s another Chaplin clip, simply because he’s so great:

© The Chaplin office / Roy Export SAS
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