I was never much taken with Charlie Chaplin, too cute, I preferred the comparative austerity of Buster Keaton. But a couple of days ago I came across this picture. It is the last shot of Chaplin's Modern Times (1936). At first glance it seems merely generic - hero and heroine walk off into the sunset and their future. Also Chaplin is in his standard tramp gear so one tends to think 'Charlie Chaplin' and move on. Nevertheless, I was transfixed. Declining towards the vanishing point, there are telegraph poles on one side and palm trees on the other. In the distance, pale hills recede. The sun is low, the shadows are long and the two figures are little more than silhouettes. The raking light also shows up the odd roughness of the roadway. It is still generic, but beautifully so. But what really lifts the shot is the way the girl (Paulette Goddard) is dressed - big disc hat, tight suit or dress and heels. This is obviously all wrong. She is not likely to get far. She is too well dressed both for her tramp boyfriend and for the journey. The discontinuity is surreal and anticipates those shots in neo-realist Italian movies of high-heeled divas on dusty road or the group marching aimlessly down an anonymous road in Bunuel's Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. The picture has become generic but not in the way it seems at first glance. I must give Chaplin another look.