on 13 October 2007
Well what can i say about this film! It is so perfect.
All through the film Chaplin gives us laughs and tears sometimes in the space of 2 seconds. And the legendary ending which has been copied by woody Allen is so brilliant that words could not do it justice. I am 18 years old and a huge chaplin fan and people who have not seen Chaplins work before should definitley see this one as their first chaplin experience. Chaplin once said that out of all his movies, he would like The Gold Rush for which he would be most remembered, however many would agree that City Lights is a huge contender for Gold Rush!
City Lights is a brilliant example of Chaplin's art and the sentimentality is all part of it. I think he brings it off amazingly and really shows that sentimentality can be a very good thing - far better than the modern 'I'm no one's fool' cynicism. There is a knowingness that the media has brought about that has made this kind of feeling very unfashionable, but it is our loss, because the grace of the flower-seller and her scenes with Chaplin are sublime. Equally the rich man's travails show how the link between money and happiness is by no means clearcut, even though his money allows the flower-girl's sight to be restored in the end. So the ironies are true to life ... However this is secondary to what makes the film so magical, which is the comic brilliance and timing of Chaplin himself, and his invention in all the set pieces, whether the ball he attends with the rich man, where his spaghetti gets caught up with the streamers, he sets someone on fire, dances like a whirling dervish, smokes a cigar from the wrong end - all things which might have been misses but which, in his hands, hit the mark spectacularly. The boxing sequence is the most inspired comic sequence ever to have been filmed, I think, its balletic absurdity underscored by an ineffable sadness at the harshness of life - and what the pure of heart may go through for unseen motives. The music is all from Chaplin's pen, which is amazing too. It seems to me that silent film at its best speaks to us directly and hasn't dated nearly as much as most of the films from the 40s and 50s. In a sense Chaplin was right to resist language because it got in the way - at least for thirty years or so. But these silent masterpieces are truly timeless.
on 30 August 2010
Long before the Romantic Comedy genre developed the stifling limitations it labours under now, Charlie Chaplin directed this wonder.
No self-assured, handsome, and above all rich hero here. The plot is entirely driven by the heroine's assumption that The Little Tramp is a wealthy man and owner of an expensive automobile, and much of the film is taken up by TLT's attempts to live up (or down) to this assumption. Trying to earn, beg or borrow the money to clear the heroine's back rent and buy her an operation to recover her sight brings him into many comic situations (including the hilarious and brilliantly choreographed boxing scene).
But TLT's love is an unselfish one, for the operation he intends to buy her will also expose the truth about himself and bring almost certain rejection and humiliation. Elsewhere in the film, wealth and the wealthy are given short shrift. Check out the alcoholic millionaire who is friendless and can only relate when he is drunk. How Chaplin resolves TLT's dichotomy in the final scene is as elegant as it is moving and satisfying.
This film is B&W and silent (something Chaplin insisted upon, even though he could have made a talkie) and is a perfect example of how narrative can be driven without dialogue.
City Lights won't change your life. But as a depiction of how love can transcend social and physical barriers, and how money can both create and destroy, it is unequalled.
on 25 September 2003
This is a masterpiece and one can't help wonder if those who accuse it of being overly sentimental really have a heart. This is a film with so many emotions and dimensions: Joy, fear, sorrow, laughter, excitement...but most of all beauty.
on 20 August 2003
First of all, before I talk about the brilliance of this movie, I should like to make one thing clear. Jean Harlow is NOT in this movie. How her name got on the cast list I don't know. Now, as far as the movie goes, this 1931 Chaplin masterpiece stands as one of the greatest films of all time. It may not be as hilarious as "Modern Times" or "The Gold Rush," but "City Lights" has an absolutely perfect balance of all of the elements that make up the genius of Charlie Chaplin. Some call it overly sentimental, but I believe that many people mistake anything that succeeds in being a deeply moving experience for something that is "gooey." If you appreciate film as a device for communicating the emotions of humanity, than you will not do much better than "City Lights."
on 7 July 2009
Apart from our suspicion of sentiment, the real reason for Chaplin's reduced status is that nobody watches him on the big screen anymore. Fill an art house cinema, buy a 60 inch tele or put it on in a village hall and the detailed operatic/balletic balances between comedy and tragedy that represent of necessity the best of silent cinema become irresistably apparent. Also the detail of the final scene just lasts longer when you are with an audience trying not to embarrass yourself in this godforsaken hard-edged filth obsessed world of sin.
I do feel better now and am going to look again at Virginia's eyes.
I still remember flipping around the television one afternoon and stumbling upon this film on AMC. Believe it or not, I had never seen a Charlie Chaplin film. However, if you have indeed seen this classic film, you will not be surprised to know that when it was over I was completely in tears. Just THINKING about that final scene still chokes me up. Of course, now I have seen everything by Chaplin I could find, but "City Lights" remains my favorite Chaplin film. It might not be his best, but for me the ending is so overwhelming that my critical judgment is somewhat impaired. Certainly this is the Chaplin film in which the Tramp's pathos reaches its greatest heights. For me the catch in the throat comes early on when the flower drops to the ground, the Tramp discovers that the Flower Girl cannot see and he tips his hat to her. Of course the gestures is for our eyes, but then that is true of everything Chaplin does in this film. Even at the end, as we fade out on the uncharacteristic close-up of the Tramp's face, the music continues prolonging the emotion of the moment beyond that of the image on the screen. In a day when the lights come up in the theater as soon as the credits start to roll, it is certainly nice to see a filmmaker who's control of his art carriers through even when the screen is blank. But Chaplin's mastery of his craft was so complete that he was not only the star, the writer and the director, but he wrote the musical score as well.
There are two intertwined plots in "City Lights." The Tramp encounters a Blind Girl (Virginia Cherrill) selling flowers with whom he is hopelessly smitten. Because of a simple twist of fate she thinks that he is a rich man. In the other plot line the Tramp saves a Eccentric Millionaire (Harry Myers) from committing suicide. The twist here is that when the Millionaire is drunk the Tramp is his best friend in the world, companion in his revels and welcomed visitor in his home. But when the rich guy sobers up, he immediately has his butler throws Charlie out the door. When the Tramp learns that there is a doctor in Europe who's operation can restore the Blind Girl's sight, he tries a variety of schemes to raise the money she needs. This sets up the best comic sequence in the film of the Tramp in the boxing ring with Hank Mann as his opponent. Eventually everything comes together and the Tramp acquires the money she needs, but not without some serious complications that require him to "go away" for a while, leaving her to await his return.
Even before the climatic encounter between the Tramp and the Flower Girl who is no longer blind, there is a piercing shot to the heart when she sees him, a pathetic vagabond wiping his nose with the bit of cloth he uses to cover up a hole in his trousers, and she and her mother laugh at him. The irony is painful, for she is laughing at the man who is responsible for having her sight, the man who is least deserving of her ridicule. But she is still a kind-hearted soul and takes pity on him. Chaplin's set up of this entire scene creates a most wonderful sense of anticipation and a payoff that is not surpassed in the history of films. The final close-up is on the Tramp, but there is also the look in her eyes when she finally understands the complete truth about the man she loves. In the original cut of the film the final title card was HER line, "Yes, I can see now." But Chaplin took it out because it was not necessary. You did not need to know how to read lips to know exactly what she was saying and everything that it meant.
on 28 July 2000
City Lights, made in 1931, took Charlie over two years to complete, but it was worth it! This film sees the tramp in love with a blind flower girl, Chaplin tries to raise the money to pay for her eye operation but in trying to do so leads to many funny mishaps and mistakes. City Lights is a legend in it's own right and one of Charlie's best without doubt. The master of the silver screen brings you his genius as in all his other feature length films, and it is that genius that makes this movie amazing! A MUST buy!
on 2 January 2008
I am a big chapin fan. This silent movie is my all time favourites (along with Chapin's other film The Kid.) He was and, still is the best comic actor of his era. If you need cheering up, then watch this fab film about a blind flower girl and Chapin playing his trademark Tramp. He fall's in love with the blind girl. The ending is quite moving. You will not be disappointed by this silent movie. If you love romance then this is just for you.
The boxing scene in City Lights must be one of the funniest scenes of all time. When I watched a tape of this movie, I had to keep rewinding that part because I was crying so much with laughter that I found it impossible to see it all the way through. The movie is also of interest as being a late silent production. Sound was already established and Chaplin was considered to be taking a great risk by producing another silent.
Much of City Lights will seem maudlin and melodramatic to a modern audience but its important place in movie history and yes, that boxing scene, make it a must for any movie fan.