Movie Review: Monsieur Verdoux

Posted: February 17, 2010 in Movie Review, Reviews
Tags: , , , , ,

Monsieur Verdoux (1947 Dir. Charles Chaplin)

This movie is part of Chaplin’s declining years. This is the first movie in some 30 years where Chaplin doesn’t play the little tramp in some capacity. Even in The Great Dictator, he is essentially playing the tramp in his roll as the barber. In fact, as far as I know, Chaplin never returned to the roll of the tramp again.

This movie involves a banker who marries and murders in order to get some money, known at the time as a Bluebeard. His later defense becomes that he has done no more than soldiers and other business men. It’s a wee bit commie, but Charlie was a wee bit commie anyway.

The movie starts too slowly for my tastes, which is odd considering how quickly it seems to start. We begin right in the middle of Verdoux’s murderous career. This means that we leap right into the tale, but it also means there is some fumbling to show off where we are in the story in the first twenty minutes or so. Things pick up a little after those first 20 minutes, when we start to see some of Henri’s personality come to the forefront, but there are still lots of little stops and starts.

Most of Verdoux’s victims are made out to be fairly horrible people, somewhat deserving of his murder. The problem with the segments involving each victim are too much like short movies that are almost too disconnected to really be part of the movie. This has always been one of Chaplin’s biggest problems in his long movies. His movies lack a full narrative thrust, being more a series of shorts barely stitched together. This movie does better than most, but it’s still a series of semi-connected vignettes rather than a whole and complete movie. As a result, it takes over an hour for the movie to get going as much as it does, which isn’t much.

This has become something of a cult classic, with its cynical approach and message that in evil, numbers sanctify. There is something of an anti-capitalistic approach here that figures in with so many of Chaplin’s movies. Since Chaplin was something of a socialist though, we must accept his ideals if we are to enjoy his movies.

I’m not as thrilled with this as I am many of his earlier films, but that is a matter of taste. It’s a well made movie, but made from an older and more cynical mindset of a man that was on the outs with his public. Too much of the comedy is dependent on a style that had long since gone out of fashion since the end of the silent days, and in the end this is a work that doesn’t come up as high as it could have.

Official Score:
19 Degrees on the Graffiti Bridge Scale.

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