Retro Scene: Chaplin’s ‘Gold Rush,’ ‘Pee Wee’s Big Adventure’

Charles Chaplin in 'The Gold Rush'
Charles Chaplin in 'The Gold Rush'

If you think about the person you love most in the world, chances are that his or her age is not constantly on your mind. Oh, sure, you’re aware of their wrinkles and gray hair (or lack thereof), but you love the person; the number of years your loved one has been walking the Earth becomes less relevant, even though you want to make sure they live as long as possible.

So it is with film. Charles Chaplin’s ‘The Gold Rush’ is now pushing 87 years of age, but I still love it because the plucky optimism and quiet fortitude of the Little Tramp speaks to me in a way that most modern comics do not. Chaplin’s visual compositions are exquisitely framed and unobtrusive, allowing a full measure of focus on his characters. Individual scenes and images — “boot soup” — remain timeless. And the gags still prompt smiles.

‘The Gold Rush’ opens today for a one-week engagement. Various showtimes at the Texas Theatre.

Like the Little Tramp, Pee Wee Herman (Paul Reubens) is a plucky optimist, but his determination is much more noisy. Children can relate, especially, to Pee Wee’s awkward body language and primal glee, while adults appreciate the ironic aside and knowing winks.

Pee Wee’s joy tends to be infectious, perhaps never more so than in his first film, directed by Tim Burton, who himself was in the early bloom of a creative career. The 80s may be synonymous with empty-headed blockbusters, but Pee’s first adventure provided a ray of subversive light.

‘Pee Wee’s Big Adventure’ opened last night and plays various showtimes through next Wednesday at the Texas Theatre. 

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