by Dan Lybarger, Kansas City Star
Many people have imitated the silent comic Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin. Few have been able to properly repeat his uniquely sophisticated pantomime (though Robert Downey Jr. did admirably). Even fewer have managed to be funny in the process.
However, in the 8-minute “Fringe Follies,” Damian Blake expertly re-creates Chaplin’s pratfalls and subtle pathos while simultaneously promoting this year’s Kansas City Fringe Festival that runs from July 21 through 31.
Admission to the festival, as the short film indicates, requires a $5 festival button. And if the promotional video is this good, imagine what the rest of the festival has to offer.
Blake’s effortlessness at capturing Chaplin’s essence has obviously come from a lot of work and a lot of love. On his Facebook page, you can spot a picture of him as an 8-year-old dressed as the Little Tramp.
According to director Todd Norris (“Candy Apple Red”), Blake wishes he were born in another era, and it shows.
“I never had to do more than three takes with that guy,” says Norris.
Most scenes, according to Norris, were done in one take.
Because Chaplin was also his own director, Norris says that his end of the filmmaking required some discipline as well.
“I watched several old Charlie Chaplin shorts, most notably ‘The Circus,’ to absorb the visual and storytelling style of his films,” says Norris. “I shot the movie on my inexpensive DSLR (digital single lens reflex) — the same camera I used to shoot ‘Candy Apple Red’— and used two lenses off an old Bolex 16mm film camera. These old lenses looked more like old silent cinema compared to modern lenses, which are too crisp and perfect.
“Believe it or not, making this short was incredibly easy and fun compared to ‘Candy Apple Red.’ There’s much less fuss when lighting for black-and-white, and since you don’t need a microphone for sound recording, you never have to wait for noisy airplanes or ambulances to pass by.”