Scen.: François Aymé, Yves Jeuland. M.: Sylvie Bourget. Mus.: Charles Chaplin. Int.: Mathieu Amalric (voce narrante). Prod.: Kuiv – Michel Rotman, Marie Hélène Ranc, in collaborazione con Lobster films, Serge Bromberg con la participazione di France Télévisions, TV5 Monde e Ciné +. DCP. Bn/Col.
The first surprising thing about Charlie Chaplin, le génie de la liberté is its format: a length of almost two and a half hours. The second, which is accentuated by this exceptional duration, is the undisputable originality of the way it treats its subject, given the plethora of films and books already available on the British actor and director.
The two authors, François Aymé and co-screenwriter and director Yves Jeuland, had already made another film along these lines, Un Français nommé Gabin (2016) … which managed to offer a new perspective on a legend of French cinema, above all thanks to the many private, unknown or previously unpublished documents made available for the first time by his family. The Chaplin family, which manages the majority of the rights to the estate of the illustrious Charles (‘Charlie’) Chaplin (1889-1977), has also furnished them with private films … Aymé and Jeuland do not rely on witnesses and specialists but instead offer a string of archival sequences accompanied by a voiceover spoken by Mathieu Amalric. Charlie Chaplin, le génie de la liberté takes the form of a biographical story arranged in chronological fashion but the structure and assembly of the filmed extracts, the musical accompaniment (mostly written by Charlie Chaplin, who was also a composer and musician), and the quality of the text and the analyses all contribute to a film of unusual fluidity.
This documentary, which moved us greatly, should establish itself as an important reference work thanks to its detailed portrait both of Chaplin’s extraordinary tenacity, humanity, empathy and courage, and of his less endearing traits. These character traits made him a political and moral pariah in the US, a country to which he had given so much for 40 years.
Renaud Machart, “Le Monde”, 6 January 2021