This has got to be Chaplin's best work. Chaplin's character is as old as the Tramp, so there's no way his character could be created for one single film. The story is told vividly but with economy.The pace is expert level. The rhythm in the camera, actors' movement and dialog all gel so well. Playing it on a big screen back and forth reveals Chaplin's full arsenal as an all-round filmmaker more apparently.
Jack is Von Trier's Verdoux, both attempting to justify evil actions in the world from their charmed and rationalising perspective; only one of their creators is critical of such posturing. That makes the film seem straightforward when it's actually conflicted - by virtue of it being Chaplin we sense a great deal of fun is being had. By virtue of it being Chaplin it hits every devious emotional beat.
If Chaplin would've continued his quest for dark humor and perfected this persona like he did with the tramp, it would've been great. This is the kind of movie that could really use a remake to pump up the black comedy, to really combine slapstick with murder, something that wasn't truly possible at that time because of the censorship...
At first, M. Verdoux can seem like a stunt, or a piece of performance art: a beloved comic icon making a film that looks and sounds like comedy but is too dark, bitter, and uncomfortable for laughter. Then the writing reveals a film about the trauma of the mid-20th century whose balance of cynicism and naivety may be the most nuanced and sophisticated thing Chaplin ever did. And he threw in some real laughs too.
Chaplin begins with a lateral tracking shot through a cemetery, an ominous tree, the inevitable shadows. MONSIEUR VERDOUX is Chaplin at his most sociologically & philosophically resonant. His aesthetic of comedy is inextricably fused with questions of ethics, of pessimism & optimism. Chaplin revolutionarily undermines the opposition between good & evil. What does propriety conceal? Train wheels: persistent & horrid.
Chaplin's leftist sentiments are no secret in this film, and several years later, he was refused re-entry to the USA, because of his political views. Here, he portrays a remorseless serial killer; his crimes are nothing compared to that of corporate warmongers, and he has no qualms about saying so. Chaplin turned his back on America, returning only after 20 years, when he was honored with an Academy Award in 1972.