Review: Monsieur Verdoux (1947)


Yet another Chaplin talkie that fails to impress!

Written By: Charles Chaplin
Directed By: Charles Chaplin

There is a part of me, no not a part, this isn’t something where only a part of me wishes this, my entire being wishes that Charlie Chaplin had stopped making movies with Modern Times. In the silent era he was a master of movie making, he understood how to perfectly blend slick social commentary with exaggerated humor. In the transition to talkies Chaplin lost the ability to craft compelling stories, good characters, his humor left him and his social commentary was no longer slick but obvious and heavy handed. It’s sad when a great director continues past the point where he should have stopped, but Chaplin kept on going because I am in the minority, a great number of people love his talkies.

With Monsieur Verdoux Chaplin has crafted a movie that flat out doesn’t work. If it’s a comedy then it isn’t funny and if it’s a drama then it’s not compelling or interesting. Monsieur Verdoux is a series of moments that failed to connect with me in any way. The saddest moments are when Chaplin tries for the physical comedy that so defined his career, not even those can save this picture and they lack any of the whimsy or humor that his physical accidents did in the silent era.

The set-up of Monsieur Verdoux is pretty simple, but the problem is that in its simplicity it becomes repetitive. Chaplin finds another wife he doesn’t care about to kill to support his one true wife and love, lather, rinse and repeat. Later, Chaplin tries to infuse Monsieur Verdoux with an anti-war message, and it is somewhat interesting, but it’s too little too late to help the film by the time it is introduced.

Like every Chaplin talkie I have seen Monsieur Verdoux suffers from bad pacing. The first hour or so moves pretty economically, but after that point the movie slows to a crawl and becomes mind numbingly dull. The idea behind the movie can’t sustain itself and that is why I could never connect with the film. The idea of Chaplin as a murderous gigolo is supposed to provide the comedy, but it’s neither funny or interesting, just boring.

That’s not to say that Monsieur Verdoux is without a few positive attributes. The only sequence in the movie that made me laugh was Chaplin’s first scene with Marie, his fast talking jewelry wife, they had an interesting word play conversation with each other. There was also a noticeable difference in the way the film looked compared to other Chaplin movies. I never much notice the camera or cinematography in his movies, because he never seems to do much with it to create mood, his characters create the mood. There is one scene in particular in Monsieur Verdoux where the cinematography impressed me and threw me for a loop at the same time. When we see Chaplin standing in an upstairs hallway at Marie’s house he is framed by shadows and he steps into them, becoming a faceless part of the shadows.

It’s sad to say, but it should be obvious, that Monsieur Verdoux is yet another Chaplin talkie that didn’t impress me. Simply put, it wasn’t funny or compelling to em in the slightest, and it never drew me in enough for me to care about the ending anti-war theme. I’d recommend that you avoid Monsieur Verdoux, but I don’t see the point, any fan of Chaplin will feel the need to see it and once you’ve seen any Chaplin silent era film you want to see every movie the man has ever made, but near the end you’ll wish you hadn’t.




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