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Criterion Collection: City Lights [Blu-ray] [1931] [US Import]

Charlie Chaplin    Blu-ray

Price: 52.83 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Criterion Collection: City Lights [Blu-ray] [1931] [US Import] + The Gold Rush - Dual Format Edition [Blu-ray] [1942] [1925]
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.9 out of 5 stars  26 reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars CITY LIGHTS SHINES WITH A NEW BRILLIANCE 13 Nov 2013
By Casey62 - Published on
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When it comes to selecting a favorite among the sublime works of Charlie Chaplin, I can narrow it down to three features: THE GOLD RUSH (1925), CITY LIGHTS (1931), and MODERN TIMES (1936). Out of those, my favorite is whichever one I saw last, and for now the favor falls on CITY LIGHTS.

Released when talkies were already firmly grounded, Chaplin's last silent production was a staunch holdout in the face of the new technology and thankfully so, for CITY LIGHTS stands today as one of the most eloquent examples of pantomimed cinema ever made. The simple story about a blind flower girl (Virginia Cherrill in a beautiful performance) who falls in love with a tramp whom she mistakes for her benefactor, forms the backbone on which Chaplin constructs some of his funniest and most poignant moments. The film is both parts comedy and romance, and shows us most exquisitely that true love can indeed be blind.

Criterion's Blu-ray/DVD combo release of this ageless classic is glorious in image/audio quality. The film, scanned at 4K from two 35mm dupe negatives has never looked better, preserving a pleasing grain consistency and perfect tonal range. Details in textures and backgrounds are also flawlessly reproduced in HD. The audio is undistorted and completely hiss free; I especially like how dynamic the music sounds in the main title and boxing sequence.

The extra features (available in both formats) include a commentary by Chaplin biographer Jeffrey Vance, a 2003 documentary on the film's making, a piece on Chaplin's visual design, archival footage from the production of CITY LIGHTS (a costume test, a rehearsal, a complete unused scene), an excerpt from Chaplin's 1915 short THE CHAMPION, trailers, a booklet with an essay by critic Gary Giddins and a 1966 interview with Chaplin.

CITY LIGHTS is silent film comedy at its absolute finest, as well as a deeply moving cinematic poem from a genius craftsman of the medium.

My highest recommendation.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why Criterion switched to dual format. 16 Nov 2013
By Mark Twain - Published on
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A lot of people are complaining about the fact that Criterion now releases DVD and Blu-ray in a single bundle, eliminating the consumers' option of buying each separately. Criterion has released a well-written explanation on this (just Google "Why Dual-Format? Criterion"). Basically, since Criterion can only afford production by printing in large quantities, it is not nearly as cost-efficient to produce DVDs and Blu-rays simultaneously as producing them in "one big, cost-effective run".
The important point is that the price WOULD NOT INCREASE, as many have noticed: the great majority of Criterion Blu-rays and DVDs have been priced at 40 bucks each, and the dual format edition is also priced at $40. Amazon just doesn't cut down the price as much. If you want to save money, Barnes and Noble is hosting a 50%-off sale right now (online and in store), so you can get this for 20 bucks plus tax.
That said, this is a wonderful Blu-ray. I trust that people familiar with Criterion products know this already, but just in case you're curious, has a detailed review on this release; it is certainly a big improvement over all the previous releases (DVDs and Blu-rays) in terms of picture and sound quality. Also, this is one of the greatest films in movie history and has one of the greatest endings ever, so I don't know why you would not at least consider buying this.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Twilight of the Tramp at the Dawn of Sound 8 Dec 2013
By H. Snyder - Published on
Charlie Chaplin was in pre-production on City Lights in 1927, when Warner Brothers shook the movie industry to its core with the introduction of recorded dialog in a feature-length film, The Jazz Singer. Chaplin was contemptuous of sound, saying that he would proceed with City Lights as a non-talking film, (although with recorded music and sound effects), and that by the time it was released "talkies" would have run their course and disappeared. Chaplin had absolute control over the production of his films, as actor, writer, music composer, director, and producer. He owed nothing to the bank, and took orders from no studio. He lavished time and money on the film, with the scene in which Chaplin's tramp first meets the blind flower girl requiring 342 takes over the course of more than a year before he was satisfied. Three years in production saw the completion of Chaplin's ultimate silent film, but meanwhile sound films had solidified their dominance, and movies had changed forever.

Of all the pantheon of silent comedy stars, only Chaplin could have succeeded in releasing a silent film four years into the sound era, but even he was apprehensive. Chaplin confided to Samuel Goldwyn that if City Lights proved to be a box office flop, he was ruined. Released in 1931, in its opening scene City Lights even made a mocking reference to talking films. The dignitaries unveiling a sculpture tableaux entitled "Peace and Prosperity" speak through a kazoo, with Chaplin performing the voices. In this same scene Chaplin uses the hand of a male figure in the tableaux to thumb his nose at society in general and the "talkies" in particular. This gesture, as well as Chaplin's demure contemplation of a nude statue in a store window, likely would not have gotten past the Hays Office censors only a few years later.

The tramp's infatuation with the flower girl, and his efforts to raise enough money to restore her sight, occupy the remainder of the film, every minute displaying Chaplin's cinematic skills at their finest. City Lights was a resounding hit, ending the silent era with an exclamation point. Mixing precisely choreographed slapstick comedy with heartfelt pity, it juxtaposed laughter and tears in a risky combination that few films would even attempt. The final scene in front of the flower shop is a classic, particularly the last two close-up shots, one of the flower girl who can now see her benefactor whom she had mistakenly assumed to be a wealthy man, then a fade-out of the delighted but embarrassed tramp. One of the most poignant closing scenes in the history of film, it had many patrons leaving the theater in tears, reportedly causing people waiting in line for the next performance to ask "what kind of comedy is this?"

City Lights is the latest in Criterion's series of Chaplin films, and they have done themselves proud. The Criterion release contains a Blu-ray and a DVD disc, and both feature the film and a complete set of extras. Special features include two documentaries on the making of the film, archival footage from the production, trailers, an audio commentary with the film, an extensive booklet with an essay by film critic Gary Giddins and a 1966 interview with Charlie Chaplin. The best films to introduce a first-time viewer to the artistry of Charlie Chaplin are probably The Gold Rush (1925) and City Lights. Twenty and more years after their release, Chaplin cited first one, then the other, as his personal favorite of all his films. Watching them today, in beautifully restored versions, it is easy to see why he would be conflicted as to which was his favorite. Both are superb, and not to be missed.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lovingly restored and quite lovely edition of one of the greatest of films 18 Dec 2013
By Nathan Andersen - Published on
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The film opens as politicians celebrate a new monument to prosperity. Their speeches are empty words, gibberish. The monument is unveiled, only to reveal a bum, asleep in the lap of luxury. A struggle ensues. Irate politicians attempt to remove him from the monument, putting out of sight and out of mind the reminder that things aren't all that great for everyone in the big city, and the tramp attempts to make a dignified exit. In this and in so many scenes throughout the film, Chaplin is a master at creating ironic contrasts, ratcheting up the tension to the point it is almost unbearable -- where you don't know whether to laugh or cry -- and then he moves on, The tramp adjusts his coat, wipes off the dust, and waddles away. As often takes place in Chaplin's films, the tramp falls in love, but the one he loves loves him back based on mistaken identity. She is blind, and takes him to be a rich gentleman. The film is both hilarious and is a very thoughtful reflection on what it means to see, and on the various kinds of blindnesses that afflict most of us most of the time, so that we only see what we want to see.

This is, to my mind, the greatest film by one of the greatest filmmakers. I've held off, though, in picking it up on DVD because, until now, it didn't look all that great. I'd seen it in the theater projected from a somewhat damaged print, I'd seen it on VHS and I'd seen it on DVD. I was hoping that someone would restore it properly and release it on Blu-Ray. I can't say how excited I was when I heard that Janus Films was doing restorations of several Chaplin films, and this was one of them, because I knew that meant we'd get a DVD and Blu-Ray release from Criterion. I was even more excited when I heard it would be a Blu-Ray/DVD combo release, since that means I can watch it on my laptop from a DVD as well as screen it large using a Blu-Ray player.

Anyhow, I've seen this both ways now, and am not disappointed; I've projected it onto a wall, seen it on a large screen TV, and watched it on my Macbook Pro. It looks fantastic every way, and the perfect ending gets me every time.

The features here are good too. There's an appreciative response to the film by Nick Park, creator of the Wallace and Gromit animated films. What I really enjoyed seeing, though, was the very rare footage of Chaplin directing a scene, in which the Tramp meets the Blind Girl for the first time. It's a scene he worked and reworked several times throughout the making of the film, and to see all the things he tried to make it work perfectly, to communicate several things without words, provides a fascinating window into the process of this fascinating director.

An essential film, given a near-perfect release by Criterion. Highly recommended.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Immortal Film Classic Preserved For All Time On Blu-ray 18 Nov 2013
By Michael P. Ofarrell - Published on
Verified Purchase
So much has been written about "City Lights" that my own two cents worth won't tip the scales as far as convincing those who refuse to watch silent films or "old" movies in general that they should see what I believe to be an immortal film classic. So much time has gone by ; decade upon decade slips away seemingly causing many of the acknowledged movie classics to fade into oblivion were it not for the cognoscenti who write about The Golden Age of Hollywood, the Lost Art of The Silent Film, and the great directors and craftsmen who created indelible works of art, motion picture murals that have stood the test of time and are for all time. Recently three extraordinary silent productions have made their way to Blu-ray and DVD : D.W. Griffith's multi-historical epic "Intolerance", King Vidor's vivid World War 1 drama "The Big Parade" and Charles Chaplin's romantic comedy/drama, "City Lights".

What is remarkable about "City Lights" is its ability to render the viewer helpless and vulnerable in witnessing the meeting of The Tramp and The Flower Girl during the film's finale, possibly the most heart wrenching moment in film history. In creating this particular sequence, director Charles Chaplin served Charlie Chaplin the actor with his greatest moment on film. The iconic Tramp, the world famous, beloved character of early 20th Century film reached the pinnacle of craftsmanship and art with "City Lights", where comedy and drama effortlessly mingled with nary a misstep. The movie is by turns hilarious and deeply moving and the acting of Chaplin and Virginia Cherrill strikes viewers' hearts as much now as it must have done to movie audiences in 1931.

Criterion's Blu-ray/DVD combo release is the one to own. The movie has never looked or sounded better (Chaplin's music score is unforgettable and shows off another side of his genius). The supplements accompanying this release are fascinating particularly those scenes showing Chaplin directing his actors on the set, his many moods and his utmost dedication in bringing this unforgettable love story to life.
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