Saturday, September 28, 2013

Comments & Questions on Marcuse & Modern Times

Post your questions/thoughts as comments to this post.  Again:  a paragraph is fine, or a couple if you feel so moved.  You are posting on a question, problem or topic of your choice.  Citing a particular passage is recommended but not required.

Remember - you can find Modern Times at the library, on Amazon (rental or purchase), on Itunes (rental or purchase), or even on youtube (probably low quality, but also free).

17 comments:

Adam Lewis said...

This stage would be reached when material production (including the necessary services) becomes automated to the extent that all vital needs can be satisfied while necessary labor time is reduced to marginal time. From this point on, technical progress would transcend the realm of necessity, where it served as the instrument of domination and exploitation which thereby limited its rationality;

This part of One Dimensional Man really hit me as a source of angst and disquiet. We don't have to struggle for food, its relatively cheap and very abundant. Housing is affordable and jobs are even coming back. Where is the struggle? Well there really isn't one. Over the past few years I've heard talks about how our economy is suffering growing pains from trying to shift from industry to service based. What exactly are we servicing? More energy for cars and gadgets. Heath services to make sure we live long enough to enjoy them. Tech support for gadgets. Its a bit mind boggling and unnerving when you really think about it.

Joseph Hastings said...

Before watching “Modern Times”, I had watched a total of zero silent films, so I did not know what to expect from this movie. After watching the movie, I have to say that I was impressed and that I actually enjoyed watching it. There were even times that I found funny during the film. This was a very straightforward film and I understood many of the things and even saw that the movie was teaching a lesson. It showed the audience to never give up no matter what you are facing, and make the best out of any opportunity. It comes to a surprise to me that movies from over 70 years ago can still be meaningful today in an age where so many things have changed.

Carmen Condeluci said...

When I first began watching Modern Times, I was at first taken aback by the fact that it was silent film. I knew from the film's description that it had been released in 1936, nearly a decade after the "talkie" had been commercialized. However, as I continued to watch I realized that Chaplin's use of sound and music was far more effective than speech could have been. The grinding noises of machines and the percussive banging and turning that is heard throughout the Tramp's exploits in the factory set the pace for his pantomiming, and quickly and efficiently set the tone for situations, such as when the music stops and starts in different keys and speeds when the lever is pulled and pushed.

Chaplin's masterfully composed score also helps ease over plot points that might have been well received had the film been a "talkie". The romance between the Tramp and gamine would not have worked nearly as well without the uplifting music that allows the viewer to quickly understand their mutual "love-at-first-sight" relationship. Had the characters been speaking, the few brief minutes that Chaplin gives the viewer to understand that they are in love would have to be greatly expanded in order to seem believable. By not having the characters converse, Chaplin gives the viewer a sort of "excuse" to accept their love as a quick fact, and quickly moves on to more important plot points that are more central to the political attack on industrial America that he is trying to convey.

Carl Santavicca said...

I must say that initially I was skeptical about watching a silent film, however after watching it I found it quite enjoyable and actually relevant. The battle between industry and labor is as prevalent today as it was then. It would seem that this movie takes a stance that over industrializing is is bad for the working class. However, I looked at this movie from a different perspective; I thought it could be an example of how difficult it is to find quality workers. Chaplin's character was employed in many different scenarios, from industry to services, which quite often resulted in disaster due to his ineptitude. As management in business myself, I am wondering if my view is biased or if anyone else viewed the movie this way?

Sarah Ayre said...

Having seen Modern Times before - though not in it's entirety I believe, I enjoyed viewing it a second time. It does raise some interesting points on how machinery is used, and to extend that, how technology affects society. In the mill there are clear differences between how the workers can act and how the machines run, and while it seems like it would be more efficient to replace the factory workers like Charlie Chaplain with machines, the scene where the sales person tries to demonstrate his new product (a food server?) on Charlie clearly shows that this would be a burden and it doesn't work properly. Does this reflect a theme of the entire movie? It seems as if the machines would help improve lives, and yet many factory workers cannot get jobs and even the ones with jobs are not treated (or are living) well. Indeed, his job causes Charlie to have a mental breakdown, albeit in a classic Chaplain style of going over the top crazy. It seems a strange idea to me that Charlie would prefer living in the jail than being released into the hectic world. The scene where he leaves the jail and is confronted with many moving vehicles and just general automotive chaos seems to reinforce some idea about mechanical creations being bad to me. The line "It's paradise," (used when describing the little house that the orphan finds for her and Charlie) points to the simplicity of the home and how much happiness it can bring. It's location seems key to note, too - out in the country away from civilization. Even though it's not technologically advanced, and is indeed falling apart, they think it's perfect. Is this a way that Chaplain wants to emphasize the importance of human interactions and relationships over the importance of machines?

Abby Peters said...

I have to say when I first set out to watch Modern Times I didn’t think I would enjoy it as much as I did. I thought that my mind would wonder and I would struggle to stay focused on the movie. This did happen a few times but I was quickly drawn back in with Chaplin’s use of music and comedy. I found the movie quite funny. The part I liked about the silent movie is that all the actions are exaggerated so things like emotion and comedy are so much bigger and deeper from an acting stand point.
I especially enjoyed the beginning of the movie in which Chaplin has the mental breakdown. I thought it represented the battle between industry and labor quite well and presented an interesting view of the industrial revolution and the plight of the worker. The owner of the company, much like many in that era, is only concerned with efficiency rather than the lives and health of the men working for him.

Caleb Radomile said...

I was pleasantly surprised watching Modern Times. I'm not really a fan of silent movies or a huge moviegoer in general, but it was able to keep my attention and keep me entertained for the most part. Throughout the movie, I kept trying to connect its story with the first chapter of Marcuse (of what I could comprehend of the chapter, that is). Marcuse talks a lot about there being two kinds of needs; false needs and true needs. From what I could discern, false needs are things society influences us to desire while true needs are things that actually make us happy.False needs help society, but they don't necessarily make you as an individual happy. Charlie Chaplin's character is constantly trying to get a steady job, something society makes him think that he needs. Although money is nice, he seems to be a lot happier when he doesn't have a job. Whether it be in the comfort of his cell in the beginning or just enjoying his (poor) life with his love interest, he is a lot happier and staying out of trouble when he doesn't have a job. I know this isn't a question, but just a observation I had while watching the film.

Nicholas Flynn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nicholas Flynn said...

My entry won't address any of the humor in Modern Times, which is a bit of a shame, considering just how funny this movie is. That scene with the eating-machine was hilarious, and watching the movie alone, I still found myself laughing out loud.
But onto more serious concerns. A question I would pose about Modern Times: who deals with the consequences of lost profit? Throughout the movie, our two heroes steal and destroy the property of others. The Girl steals food, while the Tramp destroys valuable equipment and allows others to steal (even when he has the job of Nightwatchman). And at the start of the movie, the Tramp causes general disorder in his section of the factory, no doubt resulting in lowered production for the company and lost profits. But it seems that in most cases, the people who go after the Girl and the Tramp are not the ones who are hurt by the lost profit. They are police officers, and fellow workmen in the plant (I realize there are some holes in this theory: namely the factory owner, the shipbuilder and the bread salesman all going after the characters who hurt their profits). So why do the other characters, the police officers and the fellow workmen, respond the way they do when it is not their financial loss?

Ronald Rollins said...

The first thing I noticed about Modern Times was how impressive the props were in the factories. I guess I'd simply underestimated what was possible in film in 1936.

Another thing that surprised me was how well it holds up, even being a semi-silent film. Many films from the period have aged in a very obvious manner, but some (1941's The Maltese Falcon, Citizen Kane, and of course everything by The Three Stooges) haven't aged one bit. What set those apart from Modern Times was that they were heavy on dialogue--Modern Times has only a very small amount in the beginning, but it's not used for telling the story. The story telling is all done visually, and it doesn't feel archaic at all.

Also, I think Modern Times somewhat ties in with the struggles described in One Dimensional Man. Chaplin plays as a man who just wants food and a place to sleep. The biggest stress in his life was his factory job, and after being forced out, he's happy going back to jail so long as he has a decent place to sleep.

Nikki Moriello said...

I can tell right from the start that reading One Dimensional Man is going to be a challenge, at least for me, because of Marcuse's style of writing. He is extremely analytical of everything he discusses and seems to have a conclusion about everything. For some reason, I feel like his writing has some underlying resentment for the government and the way our society is currently being run. He mentions several times that the technological advances allow the "powers at be" to have more control. Simultaneously he seems to be suggesting that the more we progress our society, the more we ensure our own destruction. His first paragraph demonstrates this in the discussion of the atomic bomb. Marcuse writes, "we submit to the peaceful production of the means of destruction, to the perfection of waste, to being educated for a defense which deforms the defenders and that which they defend." I think his commentary is not only explicitly referring to society's seeming complacency toward the creation of the atomic bomb, but also to our society's general acceptance of all progress that may be just as harmful as it is helpful.

Brianna R. Pinckney said...

Modern Times was my first silent film and I was satisfied with my experience. I was skeptical about how a plot would carry on without verbal language but the music and noise accents that followed the charcters' actions did a decent job as substitutes. I found it ironic how Chaplin's character told the story of a typical American searching for food and shelter. It's very common for people to stress over their jobs, seeing as that job provides food and shelter; something every human being can relate to.

Brianna R. Pinckney said...

Modern Times was my first silent film and I was satisfied with my experience. I was skeptical about how a plot would carry on without verbal language but the music and noise accents that followed the charcters' actions did a decent job as substitutes. I found it ironic how Chaplin's character told the story of a typical American searching for food and shelter. It's very common for people to stress over their jobs, seeing as that job provides food and shelter; something every human being can relate to.

Tolu Dayo said...

That was different, but very interesting. Something that has nothing to do with Mdern times, is just the fact that with a silent movie you really have to pay attention to the actions and body language of the characters, you cant multitask while watching it, cause your sole attention has to be dedicated to deciphering the plot. With that said, this is my first time watching a silent movie , and I actually found it to be quite interesting. I also found Charlie Chaplins character to be very funny. The change in music tone, was also very helpful in deciphering the mood of a particular scene. So far, I liked it. I wouldn't mind having to watch more silent movies.

Tolu Dayo said...

That was different, but very interesting. Something that has nothing to do with Mdern times, is just the fact that with a silent movie you really have to pay attention to the actions and body language of the characters, you cant multitask while watching it, cause your sole attention has to be dedicated to deciphering the plot. With that said, this is my first time watching a silent movie , and I actually found it to be quite interesting. I also found Charlie Chaplins character to be very funny. The change in music tone, was also very helpful in deciphering the mood of a particular scene. So far, I liked it. I wouldn't mind having to watch more silent movies.

Brianna R. Pinckney said...

Modern Times was my first silent film and I was quite pleased with my first experience. I was skeptical about how a plot would carry out without the use of verbal language but the background music and noise accents that followed certain actions were a good substitution. I found it ironic how the same issues that existed 70 years ago are still present today. Chaplin's character was a typical person trying to maintain a job to insure a decent living. That's everyone's dream; keep a job to have guaranteed food and shelter. Similar to today, stressful jobs effect our lives.

Matthew Schroeder said...

I loved this movie. Like many of you I've never seen a silent film before (other than certain scenes from this movie I watched in Western Civ 2), but surprisingly I absolutely loved it. It was hilarious and clearly addressed some important issues of the time period. It was extra interesting watching from the perspective of someone born almost a century later, when many repetitive, manual tasks are in fact done by machines. This made it more interesting, but also more confusing. Sometimes I couldn't tell if the movie was serious about its criticism. Like the part with the automatic food machine. Obviously a machine like that is ridiculous, but was it included in the movie because they realized it was ridiculous? Or because they really thought something like that would be invented? The movie definitely presented a snapshot of our mindset at the time, but it was different enough that I had trouble relating to some of the characters and understanding the movie, thematically.