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Charlie: The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin: The Chaplin Collection

Film critic Richard Schickel crafted this affectionate, thoughtful documentary on Charlie Chaplin. There's only so much of Chaplin's often rocky territory one 132-minute film can cover, but Schickel's erudite script succeeds as a thorough and nuanced overview of Chaplin's career as a filmmaker and performer. This mix of biography and cultural history assembles archival film clips, rare behind-the-scenes footage, and recent interviews to track Chaplin (1889-1977) starting with his harsh childhood in the London slums, through his tempestuous life and greatest screen achievements, then his dying days as a happy exile in Switzerland. Adding their own personal insights and reflections are actors Robert Downey Jr., Johnny Depp, Bill Irwin, and Marcel Marceau; directors Woody Allen, Richard Attenborough, Martin Scorsese, and Milos Forman; critics and biographers Andrew Sarris, David Robinson, David Thomson, Jeannine Basinger, and Jeffrey Vance; Chaplin collaborators Norman Lloyd, Claire Bloom, and David Raskin; and Chaplin's children Geraldine, Sydney, and Michael. All the while, Schickel reminds us that in multiple mediums he is an engaging writer, and Sydney Pollack makes an able narrator whose authority as a gifted director is equaled by his casual delivery. This single-disc DVD serves up a clean, no-complaints print that arrives in its original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is likewise just fine. The rear speakers are used in only a perfunctory way, but this new track is clean and able-bodied. The disc comes with no extras, which is as many as it needs.
—Mark Bourne

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