What would The Freak, Chaplin’s last film, have been like if it had been made? Pierre Smolik guides us through the process of preparing this project to which the “master of masters”, as Renoir called him, devoted his last years, and whose beauty lies in its incompletion. Chaplin left the film nearly ready for shooting, since everything is there: script, preparatory notes, development, music, drawings and even some filmed rehearsals that constitute the last production by this giant of the cinema.
These heretofore unpublished documents pull the reader into a universe that blends aspects of the fantastic tale, dreams, poetry, myth and tragedy—a universe where humour is not left out: “Offering an egg to a bird—how very tactless!”
It was during a meal in the 1960s that Chaplin told his family the story of a strange creature—a bird woman who falls, injured, onto the roof of a professor-writer’s house in a remote area of the Tierra del Fuego. Who is she? An angel? A monster? A chimera? The best choice is to let our imagination survey the possibilities.
A testament film that illuminates all of Chaplin’s work, The Freak would have been, among other things, a playful satire on the almighty power of money and commerce, on the influence of advertising and the rise of religious fanaticism and its media exploitation.
The work of a free man, The Freak proves Chaplin — again and as always— to be a creator ahead of his time.
Foreword: Aurelia Thierree
Preface: Adolphe Nysenholc
Preface drawing: Pierre Étaix
The Freak by Charles Chaplin
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