City Lights (1931)
One of the best of all time
20 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
City Lights (1931)

Considered to be one of the best movies of all time, Charlie Chaplin's City Lights stands the test of time and proves to be as entertaining today as it was in 1931. Charlie Chaplin's comedic style comes through and is perfectly crafted. The amount of time spent on creating the tramp must have taken a long time. The character has his own unique walk and walks are often the first thing actors do to get the character right. The comedic style Chaplin portrays is universally funny and doesn't rely on pop culture references or current events to make fun of. Everyone can laugh at falling into a lake, or silly dancing, or running away from an imposing boxer. City Lights was shot in the beginning of "talkies" era, but remains a silent movie with a soundtrack. The reason behind this is Chaplin's comedic pantomime style wouldn't translate as well with people talking.

Chaplin's actions, gestures and facial expressions are perfect at telling the story of his character in the film. The elaborate scenes that are shot without a cut must have called for very careful choreography, timing and a lot of practice. An example of this would be the boxing scene where the tramp dances around the referee and the other boxer while sneaking in a punch here and there.

The other actors and actresses in City Lights do a very good job at portraying their characters with very little dialog. The blind girl's appearance is exaggerated by her eyes and how they're empathized with dark eye shadow to show that she's blind. After she gets the surgery her dark eye shadow is gone. The film's 3 main characters each have a basic want, the blind girl wants to see, the tramp wants love, the rich guy wants excess and to have a good time. Each has a distinct attitude. The Blind girl is a sweet kind heart, the tramp is a good-hearted fun loving guy in love, the millionaire is a two face who seems harsh and angry when he's sober, but jolly and fun when he's drunk. These three characters and types are very stereotypical and have been used before and after the movie, but in this film the blind girl and tramp's feel like real people with real problems and feelings.

The film covers several themes, including love and being in love, commitment, hope, friendship, want for something more, and humor in everyday situations. The lines between the themes are easily crossed and gently blend into each other perfectly.

The end of the film is the real show stopper when the blind girl finally gets to see the tramp, the man who helped her in so many ways. This ending is thought, by some, to be one of the greatest endings of all time and after watching it you're left wondering what happened? Several scenarios run through your head and the true ending is decided by you, the viewer. Perhaps she helps the tramp as he helped her? Maybe she's wrong and thinks the rich guy who was in the store earlier is the true rich guy who helped her? The sets and design have an older feel to it, not only because it's shot in black and white, but the architecture feels European and has a feel like it could happen anywhere in Europe. In fact, the movie was shot in San Francisco and doesn't use any of the landmarks, but chooses against them so the story can feel like it can happen anywhere. With universal humor, themes and a simple, but beautiful story, City Lights remains a classic.
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