As is wont to happen, the song that permeates the just-released trailer for Joker has been generating a lot of buzz online, and has people asking who made it, where to find it, and what, if any, significance it has to the actual narrative. In this case, though, you don't really need to use Shazam (the app, not the superhero whose movie debuts tonight) to find out: it is one of the most familiar songs in all of Hollywood history. "Smile" by Jimmy Durante was recorded in 1965 for his album "Hello, Young Lovers," but his is far from the only version -- and arguably not the most significant one in terms of Joker.
The original version of "Smile" was an instrumental tune which appeared in the Charlie Chapman film Modern Times, one of his best and most popular films. In the movie, Chaplin's beloved "Tramp" character sees his life spin out of control in comical and slapstick ways, resulting in him being mistaken for a political revolutionary, put in jail, and almost maimed several times. Ultimately, he finds that prison life is more forgiving than life on the outside and finds himself looking for ways to get in trouble. His long, tortured battle with society ends with yet another major setback, but the Tramp has not lost hope.
Which, if you look at it, seems like it thematically tracks with Joker. Also, a piece of the trailer takes place in front of Wayne Hall, where a revival screening of Modern Times is advertised on large banners at the front of the building. In front of it, Joaquin Phoenix's Arthur Fleck moves, seemingly oblivious to the subtext.
Joker will land in theaters on October 10th. Other upcoming DC films include Shazam! on April 5th, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) on February 7, 2020, Wonder Woman 1984 on June 5, 2020, The Batman on June 25, 2021, The Suicide Squad on August 6, 2021, and Aquaman 2 on December 16, 2022.
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