Chaplin plays the lovable Little Tramp. He meets a beautiful blind girl (Virginia Cherrill) selling flowers on the sidewalk, who honestly mistakes him for a wealthy man. The Little Tramp falls in love with her, and plays along as the rich benefactor. He learns about her financial woes and a possible operation that may give back her sight. Being genuinely righteous as he is, he tirelessly seeks a way to help her.
First and foremost, “City Lights” is a good old-fashioned comedy, for it showcases Chaplin’s talents for physical humor, slapstick and perfectly choreographed routines. He is great as the Little Tramp, and this film shows why the character is one of the most recognized and remembered figures in motion picture history. There are lots of hilarious and memorable scenes that will make you laugh and understand why Chaplin is a comic genius.
The film was actually done during a period when talkies were becoming more and more popular. Chaplin pokes fun at these sound movies by starting off “City Lights” with a politician giving a speech to a crowd. However, instead of listening to (or reading) eloquent words and sentences, what we vaguely hear is unintelligible twaddle.
What makes the film great though is the way it evokes emotion despite its stark simplicity. The musical score, which Chaplin also did, highly complements the imagery. And then there’s the ending, which is truly one of the most emotional scenes ever filmed. I will not mention it here since I firmly believe that the less you know, the more endearing the surprise.
If you are to see just one silent movie, make it “City Lights”. This masterpiece will make you smile from start to finish and will touch your heart for a very long time.
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