This was a significant film for Chaplin, and is regarded generally as one of his best films. It is significant because it is his first sound movie – although he did not use synchronised ‘lip-synch’ sound, but experimented with all kinds of ‘machine-mediated’ synchronised tracks. It was the last film to feature his Tramp character (Chaplin was convinced that the Tramp should never be heard talking); and it was the most politically cogent of his films – the implied critique of an over-industrialised culture careless of the needs and even the lives of the workers necessary to feed the insatiable production lines – production lines that in one sequence keep going faster and faster with Chaplin forever hurrying to catch up. This particular scene had featured in Rene Clair’s A Nous la Liberte, and the French company sued Chaplin twice for breach of copyright, later settling out of court. (Clair was a fan of Chaplin’s anyway, and flattered by his ‘homage’).
Lottie Reiniger developed her cut-out silhouette animation technique in 1919, and in partnership with her cinematographer and producer husband Carl Koch, from 1923 made one of the first feature-length animations: The Adventures of Prince Achmed, which still stands as a landmark in animation history. While clearly a development of 18th century silhouette portraiture and the 19th century cardboard children’s toy theatre shows, it is the astonishing handicraft of her animation technique, and her visual storytelling, that make her work very special.