THE CIRCUS (Charles Chaplin, 1928)

Except for The Gold Rush (1925), all of Charles Chaplin’s great films admit a degree of unevenness. This is most true of The Circus, which wavers between comic brilliance of the highest order and D. W. Dishrag melodrama. Overall, though, this is an amazing piece of work, with virtuoso passages (the chase in the hall of mirrors, which would inspire Orson Welles in The Lady from Shanghai, 1947; the high wire fiasco) and, save the one in City Lights (1930), Chaplin’s most moving finale, with the Artist abandoned to his perpetual solitude. Chaplin himself gives an unforgettable performance, abetted by Merna Kennedy—for me, the loveliest of all his leading ladies.

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