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Monday, 07 March 2011 18:19

A Murderer Rules in Monsieur Verdoux

A Murderer Rules in Monsieur Verdoux
Written by Diane Carson
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So astonishingly multi-talented that he continues to elicit astonishment, Charlie Chaplin typically wrote, produced, directed, starred in and composed music for his films. This includes his 1947 two-hour feature Monsieur Verdoux, Webster University's Chaplin festival entry for March 20, 2011. In it, Chaplin goes out on a limb to test the limits of the dark side of his humor.

Throughout his feature-length and short subject career, the quality of Chaplin's achievements catapulted the Little Tramp and his other characters into an exceptionally complex realm. Typically, Chaplin combined a surprisingly romantic sensibility with the enduring timelessness of his conceptions, the cleverness of his execution, and his resolute commitment to critiquing society through scathing indictments. Rarely can an artist encapsulate such intense, even bitter observations in so deliriously sweet a pill. Throughout his long career, maintaining his breathtaking and precarious comic balance, Chaplin offered serious cultural insight while evoking glorious pathos: we laugh because of and through the pain, not in denial of it.

In Monsieur Verdoux, Chaplin plays the title character Henri Verdoux who marries and murders a succession of wealthy women for their money. He's dapper, he's charming, he's deadly. Meantime, in a parallel life, Henri has a wife he loves. With the police after him, Henri must be cunning to elude capture.

Surprisingly, Chaplin's screenplay received an Academy Award nomination, while others criticized Chaplin for his reprehensible Bluebeard "comedy of murders." Chaplin countered, calling Verdoux "the cleverest and most brilliant film of my career," and pointing out that this 1947 world had clearly lost its way. In fact, Verdoux argues against the lack of conscience, greed, and future wars. Developed from an idea by Orson Welles, Chaplin courageously dares to abandon his endearing persona to make a bold statement.

Monsieur Verdoux screens Sunday, March 20th only, at 7:30 p.m. in a gorgeous, new, 35-millimeter black-and-white print at Webster University's Winifred Moore Auditorium. For more information and the current schedule, you may call 314-968-7487 or you may go to the web at: webster.edu/filmseries

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