The master of masters, the film-maker of film-makers, for me is still Charlie Chaplin. He has done everything in his films – script, direction, setting, production, performance and even the music. We are far removed from that sliced melon. His films are not only examples of perfect unity, but all his work is one. One may say indeed of Chaplin that he has made only one film and that every facet of that film is a different enactment of the same profession of faith. It is with him, taking our respective proportions into account, that I feel the closest affinity. Chaplin is the god of non-violence and I am one of his apostles. It would be hard to find a more biting critic of our society yet he does not preach or wind up his stories with pistol shots. He gives us an underdog who survives only by a miracle and thanks to his unexcelled agility. I have repeated his single theme in my film The River –the crippled war veteran anxiously inquires of the half caste, Melanie, how they are to escape from their false positions. She answers, ‘By accepting.’ Chaplin takes note of the egotism and absurdity of the world, and like the early Christians, he meekly accepts it. It is an acceptance that softens the public heart and turns it away from violent solutions. There is no bloodshed in his films. I am convinced that our present wave of violence is due in part to the fact for twenty years people have been deprived of the films of Charlie Chaplin – Jean Renoir
…there were very good people in Hollywood, people full of talent and ideas, who were fighting for a more adult and honest approach to the film.
… they had against them a powerful industry with all its taboos and superstitions. Two persons only h been able not to compromise and not to surrender, two persons respected all over the world not only because they were great artists but because they also were honest and serious artists. Even people who despised the movies never missed a single one of their pictures – which were not so many feet of entertainment but a new emotional and artistic experience. They rated with the best in modern literature, theatre and art. Two persons only – Chaplin and Garbo.
… they’ll (the people) see The Great Dictator, and they’ll know that Chaplin was and is with them – as always. - Joris Ivens
I am interested in how he (Chaplin) perceives. How he looks and sees, when he is lost ‘in inspiration’, when he comes across a series of images of phenomena, which he is laughing at, and when laughter at what he perceives is remoulded into the forms of comic situations and tricks: and in what eyes one must look at the world, in order to see as Chaplin sees it. – Sergei M. Eisenstein
He was a monument of the cinema of all countries and all times. He inspired practically every film maker. I was myself especially sensitive to that extraordinary mixture of comedy and sentiment. It was said that Modern Times found its themes in a A Nous La Liberte. I am happy and proud if I, who, he had so much influenced, was able for once in turn to influence him. - Rene Clair
Without him I would never have made a film. With Keaton he was the master of us all. His work is always contemporary, yet eternal, and what he brought to the cinema and his time is irreparable. – Jacques Tati
… a sort of Adam, from whom we are all descended. There were two aspects of his personality; the vagabond, but also the solitary aristocrat, the prophet, the priest and the poet. – Federico Fellini
A millionaire throws away a burning cigarette. The little tramp smartly picks it up, as I it is his own. He starts puffing the way the millionaire does. As simple as that!
People laugh. They laugh and think and grow.
The little tramp walks through history, walks a long way, becomes history.
Walking through history, through one film to another, yet another and so on, through adventures of diverse kinds, “laughing at himself and pityig himself a little”, but always trying to meet the world bravely to put up a bluff”, he arrives at a critical juncture of an epoch when the undaunted little tramp stops a while, throws away his derby, an the buttoned coat, trims his moustache, if not his whole manners, to face the inquisitors an tell them right on their face: “Mass-killing! Does not the world encourage it? I am an amateur in comparison. Then, when the inquisitors condemn him to eath, he says quietly and confidently “I shall see you soon, very soon.”
People laugh and think and grow.
As they see him killing the chosen women, one after another, the laugh. They think and grow as they hear him telling his disabled wife: “These are desperate days… millions are starving and unemployed… It is not easy for a man of my age.”
Walking through history, Chaplin made unending statements. People sat up and made notes. In one statement he said “There are situations when even murder becomes comical.” He said it while making Monsieur Verdoux, the mass-murder, who according to Chaplin, feels that murder is the logical extension of business.” And in the words of Monsieur Verdoux, “Business is a ruthless business.”
Shakespeare said: Genius is to madness alike.
Chaplin seems to have said: “Ruthlessness is to comicality alike.”
Thus, putting the two extremes together – ruthlessness and comicality – Chaplin proved to be just one singular example of incredible creative originality transcending all conceivable absurdities and yet projecting supreme wisdom the like of which the world of cinema has never known.
What is striking and most profound is that Chaplin, known universally as the greatest of comedians, ends up with ruthless cynicism which, compounded with tremendous zeal for survival can alone, and not insipid optimism, bring sanity and decency to the world where “greed has poisoned men’s souls And true, given a choice, I shall call Monsieur Verdoux Chaplin’s greatest and indeed, his most contemporaneous work. - Mrinal Sen