Zoe Beloff’s latest film, The Tramp’s New World (2021), is a meditation on, and a visualisation of, the scenario that James Agee wrote in 1948 for his lifelong hero, Charlie Chaplin. The film interweaves two cinematic spheres. In one, Agee, dramatized by an actor, conjures up and imagines his ideas for the movie; in the other, Chaplin himself, cleverly montaged by Beloff from relevant clips, enacts the story and the political message it carries.
Agee’s scenario was unrealised and Beloff’s film links back to her previous works about failed projects by two great radical artists, Sergei Eisenstein and Bertolt Brecht. Once asked about her methodology, Beloff replied: ‘I talk with people in the past.’ The Tramp’s New World continues that dialogue, with a further and fascinating exploration of how radical artists might mine the popular, and fragments of mass culture, to create political art for ordinary people.
Once again, Beloff has acted as a medium, using the cinema to bring these ghosts, and their lost or forgotten utopian aspirations, from the past into the present.
On the 30th of March we Essay Film Festival hosted a Q&A with director Zoe Beloff. Hosted by Laura Mulvey.