Sunday, September 07, 2014

A Woman of Paris

Written, directed, and scored by Charles Chaplin, A Woman of Paris is the story of a French country girl and an artist who try to elope in Paris only to go to the city alone where she endures a whirlwind life. The film marks a change of pace for Chaplin as he strays away from his slapstick comedy in favor of a more dramatic based feature. Starring Edna Purviance, Clarence Geldart, Carl Miller, Lydia Knott, Charles K. French, and Adolphe Menjou. A Woman of Paris is a touching and poignant drama from Charles Chaplin.

The film explores the life and decisions of a young French country girl who tries to go to Paris with her artist boyfriend only for things to go wrong where she ends up going to Paris by herself as she becomes the mistress of a rich bachelor and endure many conflicts about her fate. It’s a film that plays into the decisions that Marie St. Clair (Edna Purviance) would make as she would live a life of riches and parties but it is an empty one until she learns that her old flame Jean (Carl Miller) is in Paris with his mother (Lydia Knott) working as an artist. Torn between returning to Jean and living the life of a mistress to the rich bachelor Pierre Revel (Adolphe Menjou), Marie becomes unsure of what to do as it would play into this dramatic conflict of a woman who lost Jean through a misunderstanding and she is suddenly in a world where she has everything but true love.

Charles Chaplin’s screenplay definitely goes for a more traditional approach to storytelling as he plays into Marie’s own fate as the decisions she makes in her life would have repercussions. Especially as she is driven by misunderstanding and regrets that would often have make the wrong decisions as well as become unsure of what to do. On the one hand, there’s the part of her past in Jean who would give her a simpler and happier life but misunderstandings often get in the way. On the other hand, there’s Pierre who can give Marie everything though he is set to be engaged to another woman and sleeps around with other women. It’s a dichotomy that makes the story so compelling as it adds a lot of ground to what Chaplin wanted to say.

Chaplin’s direction has this air of beauty to his compositions while not being afraid to take risk and be very dramatic. There are very little moments of humor in the film as Chaplin only makes a brief cameo as a train station porter as Chaplin is mostly focused on the fate of this young woman from the French countryside. There’s an intimacy to Chaplin’s direction as he goes for very simplistic compositions that has this air of beauty that is carried by this very somber and majestic score that he would bring for its 1976 reissue. With additional help from Mona Bell, Chaplin would bring a low-key approach to the editing with its emphasis on fade-outs to play into the film’s dramatic structure where it has this air of melancholia as it showcases Chaplin’s desire to the complications of fate. Overall, Chaplin creates a very powerful drama about a woman’s fate.

Cinematographers Roland Totheroh and Jack Wilson do amazing work with the film‘s black-and-white photography as it showcase some unique lighting schemes for some of the scenes set at night as well as the rich look for film‘s daytime exteriors. Art director Arthur Stibolt does fantastic work with the set pieces from the dining halls where many of the posh characters go to as well as the lavish mansion that Marie stays at.

The film’s cast includes an appearance from Henry Bergman as a head waiter as well as notable small roles from Clarence Geldart as Marie’s cruel stepfather, Charles K. French as Jean’s father, Betty Morrissey and Malvina Polo as a couple of Marie’s rich friends, and Lydia Knott as Jean’s mother who watches over the troubles that Jean will deal with. Carl Miller is superb as the aspiring artist Jean who was Marie’s first love as he tries to win her back only to deal with what she’s become. Adolphe Menjou is brilliant as the smarmy rich bachelor Pierre who often gives Marie everything he wants while always finding a way to get her back. Finally, there’s Edna Purviance in a radiant performance as Marie St. Clair as a woman who is eager to go to Paris only to be caught in the middle of different lifestyles and ideals as she struggles with the fate of her decisions in life.

A Woman of Paris is an extraordinary film from Charles Chaplin that features an incredible performance from Edna Purviance. While the film may not live up to many of Chaplin’s funnier films, it does showcase his ability to broaden himself while being able to tell a story in a very unique way. Even as something that is very straightforward as a drama that proves that he can do so much more. In the end, A Woman of Paris is a wonderfully rich film from Charles Chaplin.

Charles Chaplin Films: (Twenty Minutes of Love) - (Caught in the Rain) - (A Busy Day) - (Her Friend the Bandit) - (Mabel’s Married Life) - (Laughing Gas) - (The Face On the Bar Room Floor) - (Recreation) - (The Masquerader) - (His New Profession) - The Rounders - (The Property Man) - (The New Janitor) - (Those Love Pangs) - (Dough & Dynamite) - (Gentlemen of Nerve) - (His Musical Career) - (His Trysting Place) - (Getting Acquainted) - (His Prehistoric Past) - (His New Job) - (A Night Out) - (The Champion) - (In the Park) - (A Jitney Elopement) - (The Tramp) - (By the Sea (1915 film)) - (His Regeneration) - (Work (1915 film) - (A Woman) - (The Bank) - (Shanghaied) - (A Night in the Snow) - (Burlesque on Carmen) - (Police (1916 film)) - (Triple Trouble) - (The Floorwalker) - (The Fireman) - (The Vagabond) - (One A.M. (1916 film)) - (The Count) - (The Pawnshop) - (Behind the Screen) - (The Rink) - (Easy Street) - (The Cure (1917 film)) - (The Immigrant (1917 film)) - (The Adventurer) - A Dog's Life - (The Bond) - Shoulder Arms - Sunnyside - A Day's Pleasure - (The Professor) - The Kid - The Idle Class - Pay Day - The Pilgrim - The Gold Rush - The Circus - City Lights - Modern Times - The Great Dictator - Monsieur Verdoux - Limelight - A King in New York - (A Countess from Hong Kong)

© thevoid99 2014


ruth said...

Wish I had been more familiar w/ Chaplin's work. Looking at an extensive number of his work at the end of your review is astounding!

thevoid99 said...

This is the last Chaplin film I'm going to do for a while as I've finally covered the entire period of films he did when he was running United Artists. There's plenty more to go but that will take years for me to finish.