Continuing with Frye’s “The Great Charlie” (original post here).
Frye’s reading of Modern Times is compelling enough to cite it in its entirety:
Since Mark Twain, no anarchist of the full nineteenth-century size has emerged since Charlie Chaplin… For all its plethora of revolutionary symbols, Modern Times is not a socialist picture but an anarchist one: an allegory of the impartial destructiveness of humour. Put into the perfectly synchronizing machinery of a factory, a jail, a restaurant, this forlorn and willing Charlie wrecks all three, not by trying to but by trying not to. He very nearly accepts the highbrow’s compromise with society by singing a song no one understands and dares not admit ignorance of, but even this does not work. He gets, however, an insight into love, courage, and sacrifice with the foremen who bully him and the cops who beat him up no more understand the nature of than a bedbug understands the nature of a bed. We are left with a feeling that the man who is really part of his social group is only half a man, and we are taken back to the primitive belief, far older than Isaiah or Plato but accepted by both, that the lunatic is especially favored by God. (Northrop Frye on Modern Culture, 100-1)
The first part of the movie appears above. The rest of it after the jump.