Chaplin's final film before his exile in Europe is far and away his most personal: he recreates the London of his boyhood (a world of abject poverty, alcoholism, seedy tenement dwellings, pubs and music halls), and contemplates with supreme narcissism the onset of old age and the decline of his comic instinct. It's also Chaplin's least funny film: tears outweigh titters by several kilos (and the person who gets most laughs isn't Chaplin but Keaton, appearing briefly as his partner in a violin-and-piano routine), and there is much moralising about life's meaning and the artistic urge better suited to Reader's Digest or the back of a matchbox ('Life is splendid... it must be enjoyed... it is all we have'). It's over-long, shapeless, overblown, and... a masterpiece. Few cinema artists have delved into their own lives and emotions with such ruthlessness and with such moving results.
Cast and crew
Sydney Chaplin Jr