The Chaplin Machine
Slapstick, Fordism and the International Communist Avant-Garde
Distributed for Pluto Press
In The Chaplin Machine, Owen Hatherley unearths the hidden history of Soviet film, art, and architecture. Turning upside down the common view that the communist avant-garde was austere and humorless, he reveals an unexpected comedic streak that found its inspiration in the slapstick of the American performers Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.
What did it mean for socialists to combine the ideas of Chaplin and Ford? Were their experiments indicative of a new future conception of work and leisure? And to what degree was this emphasis on comedy a precursor to the strangely festive despotism of Stalin? By asking these questions, The Chaplin Machine challenges our understanding of twentieth-century art in America and abroad.
Introduction, Americanism and Fordism – and Chaplinism
1. Constructing the Chaplin Machine
2. Red Clowns to the Rescue
3. No Rococo Palace for Buster Keaton
4. The Rhythm of Socialist Construction
Conclusion: Life is getting jollier, Comrades!