I look into these old films and do not find what I’m looking for. So they end up being nothing but historical milestones. With Chaplin, I just expect to laugh, and I enjoy some of the wit behind the gags, but I’ve yet to mine anything ecstatically cinematic from him.
The actor kid here is incredible, but there is a long tradition in old movies of splendid kid actors so there wasn’t any surprise.
But what interests me here is movement. You can see this acrobatic grace when the kid walks, or when Chaplin is grabbed and thrown by the coppers. The final dream sequence has some of that grace in the flying (with the angelwings).
No wonder Lavant is playing Chaplin in the upcoming Korine flick, you can see some of the same man-child spontaneous movements in Mauvais Sang.
But there’s a charm you just cannot resist in the kid being Chaplin-like. It reinforces Chaplin’s comic charm as well, you just can’t forget it.