Picks and Pans Review: Charlie

updated 03/08/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/08/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin
TCM (Wed., March 3, 8 p.m. ET)

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When directing a film, Charlie Chaplin liked to show his fellow actors what he had in mind rather than merely tell them. Writer-producer-director Richard Schickel takes a similar approach in this well-crafted documentary.

There are plenty of experts on hand to discuss Chaplin's career—Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Milos Forman—but the talking points assume human shape in expertly edited clips from the subject's work. We hear that Chaplin was under enormous pressure during the making of The Circus, then we see him in that 1928 film trying to walk a tightrope while harassed by monkeys. Ah, that's how he felt.

Charlie can be frustrating. Why include Robert Downey Jr. if he doesn't talk about playing the great man in 1992's Chaplin? Still, this is a worthy study of a film giant.

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