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JULY 30–AUGUST 29
A master of silent storytelling, Charlie Chaplin didn’t make a full talkie until 1940. Once he started, though, he could barely shut up: Both 1940’s The Great Dictator and 1947’s Monsieur Verdoux end with lectures by Chaplin’s character, extolling humanity, democracy, and peace. (These speeches now seem banal, but in the late ‘40s they were enough to get him accused of being a Commie.) Their closing addresses aside, the movies are quite different: Dictator (pictured; at 8:30 p.m. Friday, July 30) is an intermittently successful attempt to update the classic Little Tramp character to satirize Nazism and antisemitism; Chaplin plays both a befuddled Jewish barber and his doppelgänger, Tomanian dictator Adenoid Hynkel (who’s funniest in the company of the Mussolini-like Benzini Napolini, played by Jack Oakie). In Verdoux (at 8:45 p.m. Saturday, July 31, and 7:15 p.m. Monday, Aug. 2), Chaplin is a sentimental serial killer who supports his beloved wife and child by marrying and murdering wealthy middle-aged women; the film was derived from an idea by Orson Welles, and the shadow-filled final sequence looks a little Wellesian. This partial retrospective also includes another late work, the darkly autobiographical Limelight (at 8:15 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 1, and 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 3), as well as such lighter (and dialogue-free) comedies as The Gold Rush (at 7 p.m. Friday, July 30, 6:45 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 1, and 7:15 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 4) and The Circus (at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 31, and 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 1). (All films and times correct at time of press; call ahead to confirm schedule.) The series opens Friday, July 30, and runs through Sunday, Aug. 29, at the Kennedy Center’s American Film Institute Theater. $8.50. (202) 785-4600. (Mark Jenkins)