Charlie Chaplin, Jaques Tati Reactions to Modernism

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  • Topic: Jacques Tati, Monsieur Hulot, Mon Oncle
  • Pages : 9 (2981 words )
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  • Published : March 19, 2012
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List of Illustrations

1. The Tramp dutifully going about his day’s work. [Online image]. Available from: <> [Accessed 24 November 2011].

2. The feeding machine frenzy. [Online image]. Available from: <> [Accessed 24 November 2011].

3. Chaplin inside the machine. [Online image]. Available from: <> [Accessed 24 November 2011].

4. The Tramp sent back to the assembly-line. [Online image]. Available from: <> [Accessed 24 November 2011].

5. The intimidatingly sterile Arpel home. [Online image]. Available from: <> [Accessed 24 November 2011].

6. Hulot is scrutinized by the mechanized house. [DVD Capture] Mon Oncle. (1958) Directed by Jacques Tati. Europe. Bfi

7. The border between the Old and the New. [DVD Capture]
Mon Oncle. (1958) Directed by Jacques Tati. Europe. Bfi

8. Hulot surveys the ‘fish-fountain’ in disbelief. [DVD Capture] Mon Oncle. (1958) Directed by Jacques Tati. Europe. Bfi

9. Hulot confronting the modern appliances. [DVD Capture]
Mon Oncle. (1958) Directed by Jacques Tati. Europe. Bfi

Satirical reactions in cinema to
the anxieties of modernity

Defining ‘modernity’ can prove to be a difficult endeavour as the concept of ‘modern’ is in itself ambiguous and requires clarification. We use the term ‘modern’ to describe something that is relatively new or contemporary or even avant-garde. However, in a cultural and historical context it defines a time, especially in Western culture, when perceptions and feelings of constant change and newness in the social, political, psychological and artistic processes become a defining characteristic of the human experience in the respective period. In this sense ‘modernity’ is defined as the actual experience of living in that time, while ‘modernism’ is the creative reaction and intellectual response to that particular experience of the Modern Age. The Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th century brought with it fundamental changes in technology, production and transportation and the magnitude of these changes had a profound impact on manufacturing, social structure and the cultural and economic landscape. In the wake of the relentless industrial storm, the experience of life had rapidly begun to shift towards the confusion associated with a rapid and violent reshaping. The German architect Walter Gropius (1919, quoted in Wilk, 2006, p.11) contends “… The old forms are in ruins, the benumbed world is shaken up, the old human spirit is invalidated and in flux towards a new form. We float in space and cannot perceive the new order”. The masses would have to adapt or become outcasts in the world newly shaping around them. The introduction of machines to replace rudimentary tools spurred production in all areas of industry and with the increase in standard of living, the notions of habitat and material possession adopted new forms of their own. The focus of this essay is showcasing the satirical depiction in Western cinema of the different reactions of anxiety and alienation that arise when man is faced with the ferocious Machine and modern living. This is achieved in the context of the social comments made by two filmmakers, one from America and the other from France, that bravely place themselves in the middle of the very experiment called ‘modernity’. Charlie Chaplin and Jacques Tati responded in their unique ways to the modern phenomenon through their iconic comical characters: The Tramp and Monsieur Hulot. While Chaplin plays the part of the endearing and confused Tramp in his 1938 film...
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