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Slaphappy

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  1. 1) The documentary title, "The Golden Age of Comedy" is primarily a marketing tool to get folks to watch film someone already had in the can. So, the documentary's claim that 1912 to the 1930s was the Golden age, and so implying that the best is past, is bogus. We need to keep in mind that the silent era was making great movies and that they humor was mostly visual because that was all the studios had to work with -- silence. But even that claim is not entirely true. Very quickly most movie makers included live music and even sound effects with the "silent" presentations. More importantly though, the "greatest age" claim is silly unless you want to accept that slapstick (or really any other silent film) has to be silent to be great, thereby negating the possibility of any sound film being greater. And the slapstick films that were made after sound came in didn't and still don't rely completely on their ability to have sound alone. Like color, or better lenses or 3-D today, new cinematic technologies don't devalue previous films just the way the films of yore don't negate the power of later films. What is important is the evolution of the art and how each new technology and generation of movie makers use those tools to expand, enhance and empower of the medium. 2) No, the gags in the "Golden Age" films are not completely visual. First, see my comments above about added music and sounds, second, the audience had the ability to image and "hear" the sounds the gags were making even though it didn't actually "hear" them. And, no the films and slapstick didn't disappear, they evolved. 3) I suspect that the impact of documentaries like "Golden Age" and compilation films had on their contemporary audiences was first to provide the audience to remember and enjoy the gags in them, second to reinforce their thoughts and feelings about the films covered in them. However, as I mention in #1 above, most of the commentary in the documentaries,etc, are essentially interpretation meant to increase nostalgia for the films and thereby create a secondary market for them.
  2. I enjoyed the "commentators" discussion of Chaplin's skills and the themes he developed in his slapstick - more on that in a minute. First, a little about the format of the discussion. Having more than one commentator is both effective and engaging, but I also immediately thought of sports shows and the parodies of them and so I had to put that aside and focus more on what was being said. I'm not sure what made me think of sports shows because they are not the only ones to use this format. Final thought, the telestrator is helpful. On to Chaplin. It is great to have the commentators and then the posting here to help me (all of us?) appreciate what we are seeing. Chaplin quickly went beyond simple gags to get a laugh and connect the gags to feelings and issues that the audience knew - love, fear/dislike of authority, and sympathy for the everyday challenges of life we all encounter. By developing and lengthening , which increases the tension in his gags. He increases the pleasure. For example, we get to delight for a few seconds more in when he goes from the single step banana slip to the multiple falls on the soap and enhances those with the plot idea that he wants to propose as we ask, "is going to get to pop the question?". In the scene with the police, the image of him rolling back and forth to stay free is hilarious in part because of the exaggeration -- "how long can he get away with this" we ask -- and this is also a rare bit of slapstick that doesn't require violence but certainly requires physical strength and timing. Later, in "Modern Times" he uses a similar technique in the blinded folded roller skating scene to really show the power of implied violence and danger.
  3. This first slapstick movie includes an easily identifiable "straight" or innocent protagonist and mischievous antagonist. However, unlike the "struggle" between protagonists and antagonists in other types of stories, the goal in slapstick is to create humor as the two characters interact. It is also interesting that so much slapstick is based on pain (violence) real or implied, but always exxagerated. Why do we laugh at another person's pain? Is it because we've all been there or because we, as members of the audience, are safe, or both?
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