Chap­lin’s life and work come to­gether nicely in Swiss project

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Cor­sier-sur-Vevey, Switzer­land

Imag­ine mov­ing along the cogs of gi­ant ma­chin­ery like Char­lie Chap­lin in Mod­ern Times, or tum­bling down a cabin tee­ter­ing on the edge of a cliff as he did in Gold Rush.

An am­bi­tious, im­mer­sive mu­seum show­cas­ing the life and works of the ground­break­ing film­maker that opened in Switzer­land on Sun­day, is now mak­ing it pos­si­ble.

Chap­lin’s World, 15 years in the plan­ning, pre­miered in the pic­turesque vil­lage of Cor­sier-sur-Vevey on Lake Geneva one day af­ter what would have been the Bri­tish screen leg­end’s 127th birth­day.

“He wanted peo­ple to re­mem­ber him. That’s why he did the films and he did it in such a per­fec­tion­ist way,” says Chap­lin’s 62-year-old son, Eu­gene. “I think he would be pleased.”

The mu­seum is set on the vast es­tate ofManoir de Ban, about 26 kilo­me­ters from Lau­sanne, where Chap­lin spent the last 25 years of his life un­til his death in 1977, aged 88.

He had moved to Switzer­land af­ter be­ing barred from the United States in the 1950s over sus­pi­cion that he had com­mu­nist sym­pa­thies, at the height of para­noia about Soviet in­fil­tra­tion.

On the Swiss Riviera over­look­ing the lake with a view of the Alps in the dis­tance, the large manor where Chap­lin lived with his wife, Oona, and their eight chil­dren forms half of the mu­seum, re­trac­ing the film­maker’s pri­vate life.

Chap­lin’s 70-year-old son, Michael, re­calls what it was like liv­ing in the man­sion, with around a dozen helpers.

“It was like Down­ton Abbey, on a re­duced level. For a child it was won­der­ful,” he says, re­call­ing all the great hid­ing places.

A sep­a­rate build­ing has been built nearby as a large mock-up of aHol­ly­wood stu­dio ded­i­cated to Chap­lin’s on-screen work that be­gan around 1914.

Vis­i­tors can also catch a glimpse of the artist’s hum­ble beginnings in Lon­don and his spec­tac­u­lar rise to be­come one of the big­gest, most in­flu­en­tial movie leg­ends in­Hol­ly­wood his­tory.

With clips from his iconic films flick­er­ing from a mul­ti­tude of screens, vis­i­tors can walk down Easy Street, visit the bar­ber shop from The Great Dic­ta­tor and the restau­rant where he ate his shoe in The Im­mi­grant.

“What re­ally touched me is how they man­aged to make his films come alive again by in­sert­ing clips into decors,” Michael Chap­lin says, re­call­ing how his fa­ther “was al­ways in move­ment, and that part of the mu­seum is in to­tal move­ment, which is beau­ti­ful”.

Chap­lin’sWorld is also dot­ted with more than 30 wax fig­ures cre­ated by the Grevin wax mu­seum in Paris.

The life­like fig­ures por­tray Chap­lin as dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters, his wife, other ac­tors and ac­tresses from his films, friends and peo­ple who mat­tered to him like Al­bert Ein­stein, as well as artists in­spired by his work like Michael Jack­son andWoody Allen.

“We worked very hard to make a mu­seum that would be as true as pos­si­ble,” cu­ra­tor Yves Du­rand says.

“We are there to tell a story about a real life that was Char­lie Chap­lin’s life, and about a fic­tional life that was his work.”

In a nar­row room re­sem­bling a Swiss bank vault, one can find some of the iconic ob­jects as­so­ci­ated with Chap­lin’s work, in­clud­ing his bowler hat and cane of his Lit­tle Tramp per­sona, and the ripped trousers and patched shoes he wore in The Kid.

The mu­seum project has faced nu­mer­ous stum­bling blocks over more than 15 years of drawn-out ne­go­ti­a­tions.

It took seven years to get a build­ing per­mit, and be­fore that or­ga­niz­ers had to wait five years to set­tle a law­suit brought by a neigh­bor wor­ried about the im­pli­ca­tions of the project.

Eu­gene Chap­lin ad­mits the trans­for­ma­tion of Manoir de Ban, where he was born in 1953 and lived un­til 2008, was dif­fi­cult and says he had stayed away while the work was be­ing done.

“I didn’t want to see the bull­doz­ers dig­ging into the grass. It’s a lot of mem­o­ries,” he says.

But he is thrilled with the fi­nal re­sult.

“This is the per­fect place to show my fa­ther’s films, to re­mem­ber his work and his life, in a place where he was so happy.”

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