Monday, 13 March 2017

City Lights (1931)

Fig 1 - City Lights Poster
City Lights (written, directed and all-round obsessed-over by Charles Chaplin) had a notoriously troubled production, taking almost three years to complete with resentment between it's leads nearly overturning the cast altogether. But nothing about the making of this film would lead you to believe this was the result. And it's effortless flow and apparent chemistry between the actors was certainly no accident.

The opening sees Chaplin's affable 'tramp' character take pity on a flower-selling blind girl, (Virginia Cherrill) with whom he is instantly smitten and soon ends up involved with. Soon after, the tramp stumbles upon an 'eccentric millionaire' (Harry Myers) readying himself for suicide, whom the tramp convinces that life is worth living and thus the two become friends. However, the tramp soon realises that their friendship comes at the price of the millionaire's excessive drinking as he shrugs off their relationship once sober. Some time later, the tramp brings it upon himself to help with the blind girl's financial problems and puts himself through the w(ring)er to alleviate her situation.

Fig 2 - City Lights - Chaplin's 'tramp'
It's no wonder that many great film-makers site this as the pièce de résistance by which it is known. As only the second of Chaplin's works that I've seen, I imagine this will be difficult to top. Phenomenal acting from it's small yet talented cast, with just the right amount of dialogue (particularly with the era of the 'talkies' on the horizon) to carry us through to the emotional climax. I was enthralled by just how emotionally engaging it was whilst at the same time exuding riotous laughs from it's central performers. The final scene took me particularly off-guard it its neatly bound conclusion and I felt an over-whelming satisfaction in it's ability to round off all of the build-up so sentimentally. Chaplin is clearly at the top of his game and meticulously choreographs his reactions to squeeze the most life possible into every scene.

City Lights is a classy, smart and masterfully crafted piece of cinema which proves that the by-gone era of silent film can provide so much more than there is to offer today. With 2016's La La Land proving there is still an audience for the 'classic' approach to cinema, perhaps others will take note that there is still plenty of water there to tread. Or perhaps keep funding more Transformers sequels, either way. Tomorrow the birds will sing.



Fig. 1 City Lights Poster (1931) From: City Lights - Directed by: Charles Chaplin

Fig. 2 City Lights Screenshot (1931) From: City Lights - Directed by: Charles Chaplin

No comments:

Post a Comment