Saturday, April 14, 2012

City Lights


City Lights: The Chaplin Collection (Two-Disc Special Edition)

#76 (1998) and #11 (2007) on the AFI List of the Best 100 American Movies. (Wow, that's a significant jump!)

City Lights is a 1931 American silent film and romantic comedy-drama written by, directed by, and starring Charlie Chaplin. It also has the leads Virginia Cherrill and Harry Myers. Although "talking" pictures were on the rise since 1928, City Lights was immediately popular. Today, it is thought of as one of the highest accomplishments of Chaplin's prolific career. Although classified as a comedy, City Lights has an ending widely regarded as one of the most moving in cinema history.

As in other Chaplin movies, each scene has an element of slapstick in it, using the comic scenes in a symbolic way. The opening scene uses funny sounds to depict the important mayor and his wife who are smiling and talking emphatically before the crowd. The revelation of the monument before the acting crowd, is actually the revelation of the tramp, the well-known Charlie Chaplin, before the movie-going crowd.

The Tramp, in every scene, barely escapes disaster of which he is completely unaware. Via the comic scenes, the Tramp is shown to be short, dirty and sloppy. His life is contrasted with good food, clean clothing, a large house, and comfortable and clean chairs, couches and beds. He is shown to be fearful of looking at or even dreaming of a better life.

In each encounter with the blind girl, she unknowingly manages to bash the Tramp, throwing water in his face, dropping a flower pot on his head etc. He also shows the hardships and many times unbearable conditions of the lower class, via comedy, when the Tramp chooses to sweep the streets or sets himself up in the boxing ring. In the final scene, he happens to look in to the flower store, in a clear analogy to part of the opening scene where he peers at the nude figurine in the window of a dress shop.

Slapstick is also used to show how the Tramp unknowingly insults and sometimes openly attacks various institutions and people, from mocking the mayor and police to bashing the stuck up butler or the snoopy neighbor.

* Charlie Chaplin as A Tramp
* Virginia Cherrill as A Blind Girl
* Florence Lee as The Blind Girl's Grandmother
* Harry Myers as An Eccentric Millionaire
* Al Ernest Garcia as His Butler (as Allan Garcia)
* Hank Mann as A Prizefighter
* Robert Parrish as Newsboy
* Henry Bergman as Mayor and Man in Basement
* Albert Austin as Street Sweeper
* Jean Harlow Uncredited Extra

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