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Warner Home Video presents
A King in New York/A Woman of Paris (1957/1923)

"If you know what it means to breathe this free air! This wonderful,wonderful America! Its youth! Its genius! Its vitality! The glamour of itall! New York! America!"
- King Shadov (Charlie Chaplin)

Review By: Matt Peterson  
Published: March 01, 2004

Stars: Charles Chaplin, Dawn Addams, Oliver Johnston, Michael Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Adlophe Menjou, Carl Miller
Director: Charles Chaplin

MPAA Rating: G for (some adult themes)
Run Time: 01h:40m/01h:18m
Release Date: March 02, 2004
UPC: 085393765323
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Charlie Chaplin's career was more varied than most realize. Aside from his enduring, brilliant Little Tramp, Chaplin dabbled in other, lesser known projects. In his early years, he spearheaded many silent films, which, in the case of A Woman of Paris, reveled in straight melodrama. In his later years, Chaplin's sound films found mixed reactions. Some say sound killed the silent film star. Chaplin certainly tried to defy this convention, but his later films suffer from a less than smooth transition, marked by a lack of Chaplin's distinctive physical style. A King in New York certainly falls victim to this blight. Regardless of apparent setbacks, Chaplin always attempted to infuse important ideas and messages in his films—this is no exception.

In the second wave of releases from the French MK2 studios, we are presented a unique snapshot of Chaplin's origins and one of his swan songs. Presented in the same two-disc set, A Woman of Paris and A King in New York give us an opportunity to compare two distinct eras. In the headliner, A King in New York, Chaplin plays the dethroned King Shadov, who has recently been forced from power by his angry European minions. After his confidante steals his fortune, he flees to the waiting arms of New York City, hoping to revolutionize the country by introducing atomic energy and bringing about a utopia. Before long, he befriends many local figures, including the stunning Ann Kay (Dawn Addams), who chooses to feature the King in her live television program without his knowledge. Shadov becomes an instant nationwide sensation, attracting the attention of countless companies and even the HUAC. At one point, Chaplin peddles whiskey, like many other celebrities. I was waiting for him to soothe the viewer with "For relaxing times, make it Suntory time..."

Pauline Kael's comments on A King in New York were not exactly encouraging, stating the film is "maybe the saddest (and worst) movie made by a celebrated film artist." I'm sad to say she was correct. Chaplin tries to tackle too many issues in this film, setting his sights on American commercialism, widescreen films (with a rather funny "tennis spectator" gag), plastic surgery and most significantly, the droves of McCarthy-led witch hunters who strove to weed out communists during the mid-20th century. His comments on the HUAC are clear, utilizing a young child to illustrate the victims they sometimes left in their wake. Rupert (played by Charlie's son, Michael Chaplin) is the channel for Chaplin's political beliefs, preaching incessantly under the guise of comedy which rarely delivers.

By this time, Chaplin himself had been driven away from the U.S. by the HUAC, forced to abandon his cinematic empire and relocate his operations to England, where he had to deal with renting studios and rushed timetables, losing the autonomy he thrived in. This film certainly shows the strain, marked by bad lighting, questionable editing, and some unpolished performances. Still, moments of Chaplin's silent comedy genius do shine through, especially with a "peeping Tom" competition between Shadov and his servant. In the end, Chaplin spends too much time preaching in a heavy handed manner, hitting us over the head with his political beliefs and failing to do what he claims he set out to do: make us laugh.

A Woman of Paris is Chaplin's first attempt at straight melodrama. After starring in 70 comedic features, he wanted to try his hand at an entirely new genre. This is his first picture to be released under the moniker of his very own United Artists, marking an important moment in film history. It tells the tale of Marie St. Clair (the capable Edna Purviance), who is about to escape the clutches of her disapproving father with her artist lover, Jean Millet (Carl Miller). Of course, tragedy strikes, and the duo miss their meeting. Marie goes on to Paris alone, thinking Jean has abandoned her. Soaking in the vibrant, youthful energy of 1920s Paris, full of rambunctious parties and late night antics, Marie befriends the wealthy Pierre Revel (Adolphe Menjou). Jean returns, complicating matters. Further misunderstandings lead to more tragedy.

This is a rather standard, predictable melodrama, but Chaplin's skill is apparent. He tasks are predominantly behind the camera, appearing only in a brief cameo role. His lighting is surprisingly expressionistic, perhaps inspired by the groundbreaking German techniques pioneered by films like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. His camera does find some interesting angles, but most shots consist of the very formal, stage-like compositions that dominate his most famous films. Performances consist of the required del sarte style, to great effect. I found myself to be quite entertained by this picture, all but erasing the frustration I experienced with A King in New York. The quality of Chaplin's silent entry brings up the grade, but these films do not even approach the sheer genius of Chaplin's more famous accomplishments.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The transfer for A King in New York is quite impressive, characterized by good contrast with solid blacks. Detail is very good, but once again, this looks to be a PAL to NTSC transfer. There is some minor motion blurring and shimmering, especially on the striped wallpaper in Shadov's hotel room. Not a revelation like MK2's The Gold Rush, but solid.

A Woman of Paris also has impressive picture quality, but suffers due to the film's age. The print is clean and exhibits decent detail, but contrast is somewhat harsh at times. More motion blurring is seen, but this is a commendable restoration that will not disappoint.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish (on both), French (on AKINY)yes
Dolby Digital
English (on both)yes

Audio Transfer Review: A King in New York's audio is presented in its original mono, along with a remixed 5.1 track. The 5.1 does not open up the soundstage as much as I would like, diverting the soundtrack to the front channels. I could detect very little surround involvement. The mono track is presented in 2.0. Both tracks show good fidelity, considering their age, but show limitations of the source. The French mono track is in worse shape, as usual, exhibiting noticeable hiss.

A Woman of Paris is presented in English mono and 5.1. Like its predecessor, the audio is clean and impressive, but the 5.1 fails to fully utilize the format's capabilities. The mix is front heavy and unengaging.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Thai, Korean with remote access
3 Original Trailer(s)
24 Deleted Scenes
2 Documentaries
5 Featurette(s)
Packaging: 2 disc slip case
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Scenes from films in the Chaplin Collection (short clips from The Kid, A Woman of Paris, The Gold Rush, The Circus, City Lights, Modern Times, The Great Dictator, Monsieur Verdoux, Limelight, A King in New York and The Chaplin Revue)
Extras Review: MK2 has included a collection of extras that mirrors the format for their previous releases. On disc one, which contains A King in New York, we have an Introduction by David Robinson (05m:19s). Chaplin's biographer gives an extensive background on the context of the film, including Chaplin's personal affairs at the time.

Chaplin Today: A King in New York (26m:31s) is a documentary on the film's impact. With comments by director Jim Jarmusch, this is a well photographed, entertaining piece that discusses and dissects Chaplin's motivations behind the film, which manifested themselves in bitterly satirical criticisms of modern American policies.

Fourteen deleted scenes, labeled "outtakes" on the disc, are included. These deleted bits were excised from the film when it was reissued several years later, when the rampant fear of communist insurgents began to wane.

A rare look at Chaplin as composer is provided in Mandolin Serenade (03m:00s). Like the eminent Noel Coward, Chaplin took it upon himself to be involved in every aspect of his films, including the scoring process. We get to see the nearly 70-year-old Chaplin conduct the orchestra.

Finally, an archival section of 15 film posters, 93 production stills and three theatrical trailers (each from different countries) rounds out the extras on Disc One.

Disc Two, which includes extra material for A Woman of Paris, follows the same scheme, beginning with an Introduction by David Robinson (05m:11s). Robinson delves deeper into Chaplin's personal life in relation to the film.

Chaplin Today: A Woman of Paris (26m:27s) offers a look at the film's origins, and impacts. Chaplin's work is cited as one of the first films to depict a realistic, serious subject with performances that illustrate individuals acting as they would is real life. The film's sophistication has captured many, including Bergman favorite Liv Ullmann, who offers her views.

When Chaplin composed the score for the film, he had to make some trims. 10 of these deleted shots are also included.

In United Artists (03m:07s), a moment in film history is captured. We see the founders of the landmark company, Charles Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and the great innovator, D.W. Griffith signing the original contract.

Paris in the 20s (10m:00s) gives us a hazy glimpse of the French capital during the roaring decade. This rough footage is accompanied by no music, and is simply a collection of shots showing daily life of the period in which the film is set.

Camille (1933) (32m:44s) is an amateur film by Ralph Barton, based on La Dame aux Camelias. This is an intriguing look at the many intellectuals and personalities of the time, including Sinclair Lewis, Ethel Barrymore and none other than Charles Chaplin. Like Paris in the 20s, this is in pretty rough shape.

A photo gallery of 79 stills is divided into four sections: Charles Chaplin Directs A Woman of Paris (15 images), Sets (24), Edna Purviance (17) and Miscellaneous (23).

The theatrical trailer concludes this impressive set.

Extras Grade: A


Final Comments

These two films give us a rare look at two extremes of Chaplin. Even though A King in New York fails as a comedy, it is an important film in the Chaplin canon. Likewise, A Woman of Paris gives a glimpse into some of Chaplin's more dramatic ambitions. The quality of MK2's release, combined with the films' historical importance prompts me to recommend this set, with reservations. It is said that "even Homer nodded." You can't expect a genius like Chaplin to hit a home run every time he swings. This is Chaplin's nod.


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