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City Lights
Drama, Romance, Comedy
IMDB rating:
Charles Chaplin
Virginia Cherrill as A Blind Girl
Florence Lee as The Blind Girl's Grandmother
Harry Myers as An Eccentric Millionaire
Al Ernest Garcia as The Eccentric Millionaire's Butler (as Allan Garcia)
Hank Mann as A Prizefighter
Storyline: A tramp falls in love with a beautiful blind girl. Her family is in financial trouble. The tramp's on-and-off friendship with a wealthy man allows him to be the girl's benefactor and suitor.
Type Resolution File Size Codec Bitrate Format
HQ DVD-rip 720x480 px 1180 Mb mpeg4 1753 Kbps avi Download
Chaplin's real masterpiece
Chaplin produced gem after gem, but this is the one that I rate the highest. We have both the famous comedy and the pathos. Unlike so many other comedians, there is a genius in plotting as well as in the action. Chaplin's Tramp defied the world by remaining silent to give us his most perfect film.
Major continuity issue...
... it's perhaps a test of a person's outlook to ask them what they see in the final scene. If they've never seen City Lights before and they instantly notice the major continuity issue (Chaplin holds a flower to his lapel from the rear shot, it's up to his mouth on his close up) then maybe they've placed film studies over romance.

It took a few viewings before I spotted this, and once I did I can't help but notice it. Yet even despite this, I never fail to get choked up on the beauty of that final scene. If you want to impress the right kind of girl, put it on and show her what a sensitive soul you are during those final moments.

As for the rest of the film, then while the final five minutes are classic and perhaps the best thing Chaplin ever did, the rest of it is episodic and patchy, necessitating my relatively low score. Still a fine film, but never a completely great one, what presages those beautiful final moments is merely fine entertainment.
Quintessential Charlie Chaplin film
The Tramp, once again played brilliantly by Charlie Chaplin, returns to live out his life in the hands of whimsy and general good luck. This time the stage is the city where our lovable scamp has to contend with alcoholic millionaires with bad memories, boxing opponents that keep changing and changing, grumpy butlers and enchanting flower girls.

In have to admit that I find myself comparing these silent funny films to each other more than anything else. And why not, they're almost the same. They're all good, I'll give them that, but the plots are often almost identical. The Tramp is introduced, followed by some physical comedy, The Tramp meets a girl, physical comedy, The Tramp does something stupid to impress the girl, physical comedy, and a happy ending. It is all very well done, but is it any wonder that these movies start to blend with one another in my mind.

That being said, this is the best Chaplin film I've seen so far. Because while the rather detached comedy sessions are still there, the central characters and the central romance are both brilliant. Harry Myers is very good and funny as the millionaire, but it's the growing and tested romance between Chaplin and the flower girl played by Virginia Cherrill that keeps us interested. Especially the ending scene, which is called one of the best romantic scenes ever. And rightfully so.

They say City Lights is the one film you should see if you haven't seen any Charlie Chaplin in your life.

Yeah, I can't argue with that.
Simple Is Fine
Chaplin's City Lights has several funny vignettes, including the climactic boxing match and the scene near the beginning where one of the characters is trying to commit suicide. They are the epitome of slapstick. They're largely unvocal and entirely physical. They're unreasonably against reality, and common sense. This kind of humor can be full of laughs, or simply grin-filled appreciation.

What I found the most interesting about this film, and the even later Chaplin film that I previously watched, are the mechanics of the earliest kind of cinematic storytelling. The story threads are so simple, and even close to singular. You can hardly call anything a subplot. There is a single journey taken by a character who encounters several others. I found myself engrossed by this sort of plot. Sometimes the most simplistic stories are the most effective. You really find yourself yearning for Chaplin to get the money for this blind girl's rent. The film may be light, and how can it not be? But while you're watching it, you can't treat the story lightly, which is very impressive for such a threadbare film.

Also, having already known that Charlie Chaplin was a multi-talent, a performer, a writer, a director, I had no idea he'd written the score playing over the entire film's action. Most silent film scores are not as beautiful as the score in City Lights. Chaplin pumped his score full of hopeful, naive emotion, which suits the tone of the movie perfectly.
A film masterpiece, despite its flaws
Let's face it: Chaplin's "City Lights" is a great film, but it's not flawless. The inspired bits: Charlie making the acquaintance of the Flower Girl, the boxing match, the achingly beautiful, ambiguous, close of the film where Chaplin walks an emotional tightrope between sentiment and sincerity, and succeeds brilliantly - these are incredible and unforgettable moments in cinema, and Chaplin deserves the plaudits he's received. But such moments are interspersed throughout the film, which is punctuated with long stretches of tedium. Chaplin's inspiration was fitful, and it shows. Nevertheless, on balance, "City Lights" is a masterpiece, rising above it's author's shortcomings to become a cinematic landmark which any student of Film would do well to study.
A great movie, as powerful now as ever
I've always loved Chaplin- "Modern Times" has long been one of my favorite films, and I enjoyed "The Circus," "The Gold Rush," "The Great Dictator," and "Monsieur Verdoux." I can easily see how many people consider "City Lights" his masterpiece. It's hard to even speak rationally about this movie. It's very layered, but also very simple, and that's what I think defines a great film.

The plot is easy to describe: the Little Tramp befriends a blind flower girl who mistakes him for a millionaire. Then he saves a drunken millionaire from suicide and uses his money and car to make the flower girl think he's rich. However, the millionaire sobers up and forgets the Tramp; the flower girl desperately needs money to pay the rent; ultimately, after a series of comical attempts to earn money, the Tramp receives $1000 from the millionaire, which (after being mistakenly branded a thief) he gives to the flower girl, before being sent to prison. He gets out months later, the flower girl has had an operation to restore her sight, and as he stumbles about outside her new flower shop she gives him a flower, recognizes him, and the film ends.

No complex subplots, no dialogue. Just a pure and simple story about a Tramp and his love. Chaplin possesses perhaps the greatest gift for changing the audience emotionally: the movie is never blunt or outrageous; I laughed out loud several times, but it wasn't explosive laughter. And I also very nearly cried at several points. When the Tramp finds he's falling in love with the flower girl he's trying to help- that made me cry. It's so touching, how the Tramp's weaknesses are his strengths. If Chaplin is a communist, then I'm a fellow traveler. The Tramp has nothing to give but his heart and his life. He goes through hell and comes out smiling. Sure, filmmakers today could learn a lot from "City Lights," but so could people today: if you are human, you can learn from this movie.

The movie is called a "romance comedy," and that's what it is. The Tramp voluntarily undergoes several ordeals for the flower girl, but he's also subjected to a number of funny situations: the nightclub party that showcases the Roaring '20s (how he drunkenly struggles to find a girl to dance with), the millionaire's attempt to get back home ("Am I driving?"), and of course the classic boxing match. The Tramp is the ultimate underdog: he can never win, but there is beauty is his failure. He finds happiness in life without going along with society's standards. And he gives us happiness, too, and a little inspiration.

Then, of course, there is the ending. I love Chaplin's endings. The last title card in "Modern Times" ("We'll get along") and the final shot of "The Circus" (makes me choke a little just to think about it) are both great examples. This ending is overflowing with tenderness. The flower girl loves her mysterious savior, and has said before that money isn't her greatest concern. But then the Tramp shows up: filthy, pathetic, and right out of jail. She laughs at him and teases him a little good-naturedly. He's a little reluctant to come to her- he stands back a little. Then she takes his hand and suddenly realizes the truth. She confirms it by feeling his arm and then says, "You?" and he asks if she can see now and she says, "Yes, I can see now." Their expressions convey just enough for the viewer to understand completely, without being entirely able to say what they understand. You can read the thoughts in her head, and then the camera turns to the Tramp, and his face is a heart-broken, heart-fixed, strange, sad smile. The screen goes black, it says THE END, and the music continues with a flourish, ending on a bittersweet note. I think the ending lets us know that these are real human beings in front of us, not just actors. They have real lives, and those lives can be changed, for better or for worse. It's absolute pathos. You can't be entirely the same after watching "City Lights."
Decent, but not a must-watch.
Ah, a Charles Chaplin film. I remember watching my fair share of the silent clowns back in film class and here I watched another. City Lights is about a tramp who falls for a blind girl and works to help her out. That's basically the story; here's the twist: she thinks he's a millionaire and he wants to help pay for an operation that will give her sight (which means that she finds out he's not a millionaire). Okay, the story is done.

Honestly, I have to say that I like Chaplin, but I don't love him. This film does nothing to change my mind. There are many cute clowning sequences and they are strung together, although early on, they don't do a whole lot to help the story out and serve almost as distractions. However, taken as individual scenes, they are entertaining, although nothing that caused me to laugh out loud.

The film is helped in that it doesn't resolve too neatly but leaves a little room for our own projection of how we think things happen after we see "The End". And it's a bittersweet plot twist which allows for some empathy, rather than just clowning for the sake of clowning. So, City Lights is enjoyable and human, but suffers from gag-stringing and being a little drawn out. Decent, but not a must-watch. 7/10.
Simple and selfless and deeply moving
The tramp tries to nurture and help a blind flower girl regain sight despite scant resources and the prejudices and graft of the big city. Although the physical gags lack the large-scale invention of the factory scenes in Modern Times and the criticism of the wealthy doesn't transcend an admittedly witty recurring joke—the aristocrat friend can only demonstrate compassion and friendliness in an inebriated state; he's always inviting the tramp in, only to incredulously throw him out the next sober morning—the tramp's touching earnestness in rescuing his angel from a life of abjection is simple and selfless and deeply moving. I would say it also fades out at the perfect moment of open-ended ambiguity—the viewer is forced to make resonant meaning out of the final troublingly cathartic shot, even as the film articulates a consistent worldview in relation to what has come before. In my eyes, Modern Times is Chaplin's masterpiece, but City Lights would probably better merit repeat viewings, which is as much a testament to the film's power as anything else.
Charlo at the top of his game.
Charlie Chaplin made some extremely funny shorts but of his longer films, this is one of the best, along with "The Gold Rush" and "Modern Times." Two stories are woven together. One is Charlie's on-again off-again friendship with a wealthy drunk. The guy has a case of multiple personality. When drunk he showers Charlie with friendship and gifts. When he's sober he doesn't recognize Charlie at all.

The second story involves a pretty, blind flower girl who, given certain distances, angles, and lighting, resembles Uma Thurman. Charlie falls for her and accepts a thousand dollars from the drunken rich guy in order to pay for the operation that will refurbish her eyeballs.

Charlie is accused of stealing the thousand bucks but when he appeals to the rich guy, he's sober and won't support Charlie's story. Charlie manages to get the money to the girl anyway but then is picked up by the police and spends some time in jail. When he emerges from the Crowbar Hotel, broke and bitter, he bumps into the now sighted girl and she recognizes him by his voice and the feel of his hands. The happy ending.

There's sentimentality in the story of course. There often is in Chaplin's later films. But, as usual, it's somehow tempered. Here, it's undercut by irony.

When Charlie meets the wealthy toff, the guy is about to kill himself because his wife left him. He ties a noose around his neck and a big rock to the other end of the rope. He's about to hurl himself and the rock into the river when Charlie intervenes, gives him a pep talk, and changes his mind. His spirit revived, the rich guy spread his arms to the sky, dropping the boulder that falls on Charlie's foot.

And when Chaplin meets the blind flower girl, she's enthralled by his gentleness. Unseen by her, the smitten Charlie tip toes behind her to the nearby water fountain where she fills a pail. Her expression is dreamy and far away as the pail fills. Charlie is sitting on a bench next to the fountain, himself enraptured. Then she empties the pail by throwing the water in Charlie's face. Well, it's not the blind Mr. Muckle busting all the light bulbs in W. C. Fields' general store, but what is? A note. There have been some comic prize fights recorded on film, not counting the Dempsey-Tunney debacle, but I don't think any are as funny as the one Chaplin has choreographed here.

It's hard to imagine the kind of talent that could pull off a story like this in a medium like this. Black and white, and silent. Applause, please.
The Zen-Like Little Tramp
Waddling along with his cane and derby hat, and that tiny mustache, the little tramp (Charles Chaplin) is visually unlike any character in film history. The tramp is kind-hearted, always dignified. He's a simple soul who in "City Lights" tries to help out a young blind woman (well played by Virginia Cherrill). This is a silent film, of course, but the tramp's body language is his speech.

The really noticeable feature of the tramp character is how he blends into everyday life. He's more or less ignored by many, laughed at by others. The girl's grandmother never "sees" him at all. And only when the millionaire is drunk does he "see" the tramp as a friend. Curious ... and deep.

The tramp gets into his fair share of trouble, but only through his bumbling efforts to help the girl. The boxing match is a hoot, and very well choreographed, as are all the skits. And what a beginning for a film, with city leaders spouting gibberish, probably as Chaplin's dig at the "talkies". Then the way Chaplin makes his grand entrance ... just terrific!

Melancholy at times, the film's music really tugs at your heartstrings. Maybe it's sentimental and manipulative. But given the abiding and Zen-like qualities of the tramp, some sentimentality is quite appropriate. And the music is choreographed totally in sync with the plot action.

Production design is sparse and at times drab. That the film was made during the Great Depression is beyond obvious.

Comedy here is simple and effective. The main character expresses heart and humanity. The little tramp is an unforgettable character. And "City Lights" is a wonderful film.
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