With "City Lights," Charlie Chaplin gambled that the power of good storytelling and the appeal of The Little Tramp could overcome any perceived advantages of the captivating but still primitive technology of sound. His gam... more »ble paid off as critics and fans alike raved about this touching and simple story of a young blind woman who believes the Little Tramp is a wealthy duke. In a series of comic adventures that only Chaplin could pull off, The Tramp sets out to earn the money that will pay for an operation to restore the young woman's sight. While he succeeds, his efforts land him in jail, but the girl still has a successful operation and yearns to meet her benefactor. The closing scene in which she discovers that he is not a wealthy duke but only The Little Tramp was described by critic James Agee as "the highest moment in movies" and brought the audience to tears.« less
"Though some here and in other circles have remarked that they believe "City Lights" is overrated and over-sentimental, I still believe that one cannot deny how moving and beautiful the film becomes as it draws toward its conclusion. "City Lights" remains my favorite Chaplin movie with "Modern Times" coming in at a close second. Chaplin plays his classic Tramp character who falls for a blind flower girl and wants to help her earn money for an operation to cure blindness. The boxing scene in which the scrawny Chaplin takes on a seasoned prize fighter is the major comic highlight of the film featuring gags that have been imitated and recycled by countless other comedies. The finale is nothing short of touching, beautiful, and brilliant and shows perfectly the full emotion that can be conveyed in a silent picture. This is one of the few films that still, time and time again, can bring tears to my eyes. "City Lights" is a masterpiece."
Incredible Ending -- great score
Stresspuppy | Stamford, CT USA | 02/16/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"a must for any movie collection. the dvd version is clean and provides two audio options, the original mono and a rich version re-recorded in stereo in 1989 for Chaplin's centennial. the stereo score adds quite a bit to the mood of the film.of interest as well, is a brief collection of annotation/changes by Chaplin to the original concept of the film.the movie itself is a great tribute to Chaplin's genius. there is the wonderful story line with great humorous moments like the 'audio' joke in the beginning, the whirlwind dance scene, the boxing match, then it ends... well, the end is acted simply but precisely and is compelling in its ambiguity. absolutely one of the greatest cinematic ending of all time."
The Little Tramp's apotheosis.
Stresspuppy | 04/16/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A few years after the advent of "talkies", Charlie Chaplin, with his 1931 film *City Lights*, provided the much-needed reminder that cinema remained (remains) a VISUAL medium. Two people yapping at each other while sitting on a divan was simply not going to cut the mustard, a fact that a visionary like Chaplin saw from the beginning. Right at the outset he makes fun of the incessant jabber that had sprung up in the movies after the discovery of sound synchronization. In a public square, a politico squawks incoherently while dedicating a new statue. He sounds, in fact, rather like the teacher on the Peanuts Gang cartoons: "bwah bwah bwah". Later in the scene, Chaplin's Little Tramp squawks too . . . and that's the only concession to "talking" in *City Lights*. After that, it's back to basics, meaning: gags, drunken gags, slapstick gags in a boxing ring, and of course the vaunted Chaplinesque sentimentality, laid on thick here via a poor blind girl who sells flowers for a living. It can be argued that the gags and their set-ups might not be quite as inspired (or funny) as the ones in his earlier films. Chaplin was in his early forties here, and it shows: he's less physically agile; he looks a bit tired, occasionally (though not during that famous boxing scene). Even so, there's an almost defiant tinge to the stunts and the humor, an "I'm still here!" attitude that seems to say that even if the repertoire is getting tired, no one can do it better than the film's director and star. For me, what pushes the movie from 4 Stars to 5 Stars is the devastating and ambiguous last sequence, which will hit you in the solar plexus so hard that tears will be forced from your eyes. Somehow the astonishing climax rises above the typically sentimental set-up and attains the pinnacle of artistic sublimity. James Agee opined that the finale constituted the "highest moment in the history of the movies". He may be right."
Imperfect Print Tarnishes Tramp's Masterpiece
Jon Oye | IL, US | 04/15/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"City Lights is one of the shining achievements in the history of the movies, and it's been among my personal favorites for many years. So I was disappointed, after purchasing the new Warner Home Video DVD, to discover that the print they used is slightly dark and fuzzy, markedly inferior to its stunning laserdisc predecessor of some ten years ago.In the early '90's I bought the CBS/Fox laserdisc of CL, which was transferred from a nearly flawless print (from "Chaplin's personal archives", as stated in the notes, and probably from the same negative as the one that was re-released to theaters for Chaplin's centennial in 1989). This LD version is so clean, sharp and vivid it looks as though it could have been filmed last week. In the boxing scene, for example, you can actually pick out a number of mannequins that were used among the live actors in the audience, and you can clearly see the wire that carries Charlie across the ring when he leaps at his opponent. On the DVD, however, not only can you not see the wire, the audience seems little more than a dark, murky mass rather than individual figures. Granted, maybe our disbelief is more happily suspended if we don't see what's suspending Charlie, but we certainly don't deserve murky masses where they aren't supposed to be.Beyond using a superior print, CBS/Fox also went to the trouble of window boxing the transfer for their laserdisc release. That is, in order to preserve the nearly square aspect ratio of the original film, black bars were placed on the left and right sides of the screen to compensate for showing the top and bottom of the picture - the vertical counterpart of letterboxing. The DVD isn't window boxed, and while it may not seem like that big of a deal, it does affect the film - not only aesthetically, but effectually, as in the scene where Charlie is admiring the nude sculpture in the shop window. Key to the scene is the sidewalk elevator, which provides the gag - but it barely clears the bottom of the TV screen in the DVD version (in fact, it may bleed out of frame on some monitors). It's well within the frame on the window boxed version, as it should be. Also, with the top and bottom of the picture chopped off, the compositions as they appear on the DVD look cramped and less atmospheric than in the full image of the laser release.The liner notes on the DVD boast of an "All new digital transfer from Chaplin family vault picture and sound elements" - which sounds great, but why wasn't the best print extant used, as it was on the now long out-of-print laserdisc? This film is a bona fide masterpiece, and it should be shown in its absolute best possible form. Instead we've been given what amounts to a professionally printed copy of a poorly lit Polaroid of the Mona Lisa."
Jon Oye | 12/06/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The scene that the previous reviewer mentions, the one in which Charlie first encounters the blind flower girl and she mistakes him for a rich man, is one of the great moments in film. It took Charlie months to get the scene right, and he agonized over how exactly to pull off the confusion in a silent movie, in a way that would be clear to his audience. The result is absolutely perfect. A great scene in a film full of fantastic scenes.Even if you've never considered watching a silent film or even black and white, I would be suprised if you weren't riveted to City Lights. Chaplin was one of the greatest filmmakers ever, and this is arguably his greatest work. Sometimes I feel like City Lights is as good as movies can get."