Friday, March 18, 2011
#86: The Kid
Senor Charles Spencer Chaplin, in the wake of World War I, first announced his arrival in 1914 with Kid Auto Races in Venice. Little did the world know at that time, that what it was witnessing would be the birth of a cinematic movement. A silent one at that yet so ethereal, it would delight cinema goers until the next couple of decades. The Kid is a movie made in 1921 much before Chaplin's more acclaimed works like Modern Times and City Lights had taken shape.
The Kid features Chaplin in his most famous avatar- the tramp. He comes across an infant on the footpath while he is well, tramping. The baby comes with a request written on a note that the finder of the baby should take care of it. With no such intention originally in mind, the tramp doesn't want to take the baby home. However, when a cop sees the tramp placing the baby near a dustbin, he is left with little choice but to act as if the baby is his own. Thus, begins a relationship between this hesitant father and an abandoned infant- a relationship that is at the root of the story of The Kid. We are then taken to a time five years later when the kid has grown up and the tramp is still, well tramping.
The comical gags in the first fifteen minutes are hilarious after which one knows that the movie is going to take a more sentimental turn. The Kid is the kind of movie where there is a right balance between emotion and comedy- each having it's own space, never cannibalizing each other. Jackie Coogan, as the five year old, is clearly following the brief handed by the master as he plays the lovable kid. Chaplin's turn is a bit unique in this movie by which I mean that he can pain your guts with his comic timing and as well as leave a lump in your throat at the same time. It is hard to understand how a man can get angry and cry and take the viewer with him in a cinematic moment in spite of the ridiculously funny outfit that he wears but I guess somewhere that is the sign of a great acting mind at work.
The Kid in the light of Chaplin's more glorious works might get overshadowed when people discuss his movies. By itself, it's still a complete movie- one that will be more than worth your time. At 69 minutes, it might be one of his shortest feature films in terms of duration but by no measure in terms of stature.