The Kenyon Critics: Studies in Modern Literature from the Kenyon Review

By John Crowe Ransom | Go to book overview

Eric Bentley


MONSIEUR VERDOUX AS THEATRE

"His [ Chaplin's] great forte has been purely theatrical."--Parker Tyler

WHAT an achievement this film is! We don't have to compare it with other films: we don't have to compare it with the comedies or social dramas of Broadway: here is a work that can be taken seriously.

There are things to find fault with in Monsieur Verdoux. But I should say that there is something heartening even in Mr. Chaplin's faults--because they are faults of excess, not of deficiency. If some scenes in Verdoux are puzzling, is it not because they might mean several things, not that they might mean nothing? In the revolutionary act of making the screen say something, Mr. Chaplin has made it say too much. There is more material in his latest film than he is able to manage--which is to say, more than any living dramatic artist could manage. Had Mr. Chaplin been content to say something about capitalism, he could have done so with brilliant clarity. Actually, he blurred the edges of his main statement with perhaps incompatible and certainly irrelevant statements on other subjects no less enormous--such as the problem of evil and (what may be the same thing) the problem of women. It is hard to write a Critique of Political Economy and an Apologia pro Vita Sua at the same time; not all the psychological complexities of the latter seem relevant to the trenchant sociology of the former. Is it merely malicious of us to find Verdoux's attitude to some of his

____________________
This essay was originally a lecture read at the Kenyon School of English.

-138-

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The Kenyon Critics: Studies in Modern Literature from the Kenyon Review
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction vii
  • Essays 1
  • The Sorrows Of Thomas Wolfe 3
  • Pure And Impure Poetry 12
  • Myth And Dialectic in the Later Novels Of Henry James 17
  • Kafka's Distorted Mask 58
  • Joyce's Ulysses and the French Public 75
  • Robartes And Aherne: Two Sides of a Penny 88
  • The Stone And The Crucifixion: Faulkner's - Light in August 115
  • Emotions In Poems 127
  • Monsieur Verdoux As Theatre 138
  • The Good Ford 151
  • Parody And Critique: Notes on Thomas Mann's - Doctor Faustus 182
  • Novel into Film: - All the King's Men 225
  • Wordsworth And the Iron Time 233
  • Book Reviews 253
  • The Loud Hill Of Wales 255
  • Q's Revisions 259
  • The Whole Of Housman 263
  • Neither Historian nor Critic 267
  • The Humble Animal 277
  • Satan And Denis De Rougemont 281
  • The Everlasting Mr. Huxley 289
  • Dry Watershed 298
  • The Hellenism Of Robinson Jeffers 307
  • The Cost Of Distraction 312
  • Aristocracy And/Or Christianity 324
  • Bibliography 341
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