Thursday, 22 August 2013

City Lights (1931) - ★★★★★

Director: Charles "Charlie" Chaplin
Writer: Charlie Chaplin
Stars: Charlie Chaplin, Virginia Cherrill, Harry Myers, Florence Lee, Al Ernest Garcia, Hank Mann

City Lights is one of the most beautiful movies I've ever seen. Whenever I think about it, I just feel the most profound sense of joy. I laughed several times, and nearly cried my eyes out at the end of the film. I was always intrigued to see City Lights because many people called it Chaplin's greatest work. Now that's a huge statement to make, considering his classics like The Gold Rush (1925), The Circus (1928), Modern Times (1936) and my personal favourite, The Great Dictator (1940). Now that I've finally seen this film, I can honestly say that it deserves to be called his greatest work. It's simply a masterpiece... a silent film that will be enjoyed forever.

We follow The Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) in another hilarious, whirlwind adventure. He's a poor (and I assume homeless) bum that traverses the city. One day whilst walking the streets, he meets and falls in love with a blind flower girl (Virginia Cherrill), who thinks he's a rich gentleman. Later at night, he accidentally wanders upon the scene of a drunk millionaire who is about to commit suicide. After saving the man, they become 'drunken' pals and get up to all kinds of shenanigans. Meanwhile, the flower girl's home will be taken by the bank if she doesn't pay her rent, so The Tramp tries to figure out a way to get her the money.

The funniest dinner scene I've ever seen!
I've seen a few Chaplin films, and I can honestly say that I don't find his repetitious comedy to be hilarious. It's funny at times, but it's not "Ha Ha!" funny in my opinion. With that being said, I still laughed a lot at the humour in City Lights. There were a number of extremely memorable comedy scenes. While the general consensus is that the boxing scene is the funniest part of the movie, I must disagree with the majority. For me, the funniest part was when The Tramp and The eccentric millionaire were having dinner at a fancy restaurant. They were both absolutely wasted, pulling chairs out from under people, causing havoc and having a ball! I absolutely lost it! I'd never laughed so hard at a silent movie in my life.

The magnificence of this film is that it's not the comedy that is the greatest aspect, but rather the beauty of the performances and the story. I haven't seen The Kid (1921) yet, but I'll hazard to guess that City Lights is Charlie Chaplin's 2nd best performance (behind The Great Dictator of course). There were moments where his expression alone made me giggle, and also made me cry. He was phenomenal here, and evoked so much emotion out of me without ever uttering a word. However, Virginia Cherrill stole the show for me. With one look, she evoked an abundance of overwhelming emotions out of me. It was her performance, mixed with the gorgeous score written by Charlie Chaplin himself, that captured the magic and essence of love.

I really think Charlie Chaplin is one of the greatest figures in modern history. He brought so much joy to people's lives. He was not only a movie director, but a producer, actor, music composer, writer, and a hilarious comedian. City Lights was clearly a labour of love, seeing as the film industry of 1931 was dominated by 'talking films,' and he opted to stick with silent cinema. It's arguably his greatest film, and it's definitely one of the greatest movies of all time. I can't stop smiling, this movie just brings so much happiness out of me! At this point in my life, City Lights is my second favourite silent movie.

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