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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
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.
Unashamedly Sentimental---Works for Me
I had the pleasure of seeing a screening of this film (silent, though it came out well into the sound era) with live music accompaniment by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. As you can imagine, this added a tremendous amount to the overall effect of the movie, which I had seen once before on video. This is Chaplin at his most unabashedly sentimental, but darn it if it doesn't work like a charm. This feels the most dramatic of the Chaplin films I've seen, with the most "plot," but that doesn't mean there aren't wildly funny bits, like Chaplin's brief stint as a boxer. I don't cry especially easily at movies, so the ending didn't have me in tears, but you're excused if it has that effect on you, and you might want to have a handkerchief handy just in case.

Grade: A
Seeing and Being Seen
Spoilers herein.

For me, this film falls not into the category of favorite films (I'm a Marx brothers kind of guy) but earns instead a place on a very short list of most important movies.

That's because it has two features that I truly appreciate.

It is as pure a vision of its creator as is possible. Nearly all other films are engineered from prior work. Not so with a small list of projects from Welles, Kurosawa, Eisenstein, ... and this one project of Chaplin's. They are wholly original, springing from some nether world.

But the other element is the one that impresses the most. This film is about itself, about the art of visual narrative. Chaplin was intelligent enough to know that what he was doing was new. The issues are centered on what the audience `sees,' so while he struggles with what and how the audience sees, he builds that into the fabric of the story.

The primary framing is about the blind girl who falls in love with him by `seeing' him in her own way. Then `sees' him at the end in a different way. The rich man recognizes the tramp when drunk but does not when he is not. Nearly all the jokes, indeed every element of the film is about this same dynamic: the elevator which is not seen but then was, the burglars the same, the Tramp on the statue, on the barrel. Even seeing the cigar before the bum does. Even us seeing the soap and the foreman not.

The `seeing' is carried over to `hearing' with the politician and whistle jokes. And then even further as Charlie turns his back on the new technology of giving us speech and instead `shows' us something else: he writes and conducts an amazing score instead. This is truly amazing (and one reason to take Mike Figgis seriously).

No wonder Orson Welles considered this the most important film ever made. But as to the best to watch? Because film is so derivative, my own gold standard for the Tramp is Robert Downey's (and to some extent Depp's). Comic timing is something that evolves, and those men make a more effective Tramp for my modern ability to see.

Trivia: Chaplin found the `blind' girl in a group of spectators at a fight and was struck with how her expressions reflected what she saw. She's pretty as well of course, but certainly not the prettiest Chaplin knew. See how Chaplin separately works in both the fight (a performance) and her reaction to his performance in the film.
Wonderful set-pieces make the film
As always the little tramp is fleeing the long arm of the law when he is mistaken for a wealthy man by a blind girl selling flowers by the roadside. While he longs to help her the tramp knows he cannot. However when he is at his lowest he stumbles upon a drunken man who he helps out who may be able to help him in turn – if the two of them can sober up long enough.

In response to seeing some modern trash posing as "comedies" recently (Little Man, Norbit, Pluto Nash – I'm looking at you) I decided to check out some comedies that have stood the test of time – a few Chaplin films being among them. City Lights is one of those film that you will think you have seen even when you have not. I knew I had never actually seen it but the wonderful opening scene on the statue and the scenario of the blind girl by the side of the road were very familiar to me and I was right into it from the start. As was often the case, this film has a thin narrative but one that allows for several scenarios for Chaplin to work his magic. And so he does with some classic sequences across the whole film.

The statue scene is memorable for how he makes so much out of so little but the brilliant choreography of the boxing match had me rolling with laughter as it moved so beautifully and imaginatively around the ring. Chaplin is a master and this is just one of many films that shows it as he creates a great little clown that we care about but can also laugh at. His support do no more than that – support him – but yet they are also roundly good. Cherrill provides attractive heart despite her simple character, while Myers, Garcia, Mann and a few others do good physical work alongside Chaplin.

City Lights is a really great film that is all the more impressive for still feeling fresh and funny more than seventy years after it was made. The simple narrative is the frame but it is the wonderful and frequent set-pieces that tickle and also stick in the mind. So tonight you might be looking at your film queue with lots of modern comedies but it is worth bumping this classic to the top of the list instead.
I was never aware that silent films could be masterpieces!
I have never before seen a full silent movie and obviously, never seen a Chaplin film. I didn't know, going into the film, what to really expect. I didn't think I would be able to stand a whole film without any dialogue. I honestly didn't think that slapstick humor, to the extent that I've seen in a few clips from Chaplin films would appeal to me. Thankfully, I was more than wrong. Charlie Chaplin is not only a funny film, but it is an extremely touching film. The performances are fanastic, especially by legend Charlie Chaplin who was perfect as the often clumsy Tramp. The story was so moving that the 90 minute duration was forgotten by me right throughout the film.

The Tramp meets a blind flower girl and immediately falls in love with her. On eday, he rescues a millionaire as he was about to commit suicide and convinces him to not destroy his life. The drunk millionaire befriends The Tramp to the extent of allowing him to stay at the man's mansion, use his car and even borrow money. The Tramp, one day, spies on the blind girl's window and sees a doctor by the girl's bedside and realizes that she is sick. He also discovers that the girl and his grandmother may be forced to leave if they cannot pay their rent in time. 'City Lights' then follows The Tramp's hilarious adventure to try and get enough money to save the girl and her grandmother, whilst running into plenty of trouble.

Charlie Chaplin perfectly portrays the Tramp as an extremely peculiar looking and clumsy man yet also brings extreme heart and love to the role. His fantastic performance is matched by Virginia Cherrill who portrays the blind flower girl extremely well. Inarguably, both were fantastic but their brilliance is more evident due to the fact that 'City Lights' is a silent film that has no dialogue. The ability to portray an entire film simply out of facial expressions is absolutely fantastic.

My expectations for 'City Light' were to see a completely slap stick humored film. Whilst there is plenty of slapstick humor, the film is incredibly touching and powerful written and directed brilliantly by Sir Charles Chaplin. The humor is plenty throughout the 90 minute duration of the film and whilst the emotion is limited, when emotional scenes are shown in the film they work brilliantly. 'City Lights' is yet another one of those films that many people underestimate and jump to speculations which turn out wrong.

'City Lights' is such a brilliant film that is pretty much flawless, making for the most entertaining 90 minutes without any words uttered out of mouths! The brilliance of this film is more evident for myself, as I now wish to see more Chaplin classics! Featuring fantastic performances and a great story, City Lights is definitely one of the classics that every movie lover must view sometime in their life. It is the Star Wars of its era.
A cinematic triumph ... a universal masterpiece ...
Charlie Chaplin was the greatest film-maker of all-time … and only two words are enough to measure up the greatness of his talent and its cultural significance in Cinema's history: "City Lights", a title that resonates in my heart as the most inspiring triumph of the human spirit. "City Lights" is not just a film; it's a cinematic gift from a genius, who sublimated the simplicity of the pantomime to create the greatest and most universal romantic comedy that ever enchanted the silver screen.

The universality and emotionality of the film have remained intact, and continue to provoke the laughs and the tears of movie lovers all over the world even after 80 years. It's an incredible achievement because it stood the test of time and transcended the geographical barriers when other classics are more appreciated in a sort of sentimental and magnanimous way, as if we're trying to repress the feeling that some elements have obviously dated. But Chaplin's film hasn't dated because it chose to be dated from the start, at the time of its release. It was a silent movie in the talking era, when all the fans were enthusiastic of hearing shouts, screams, cars, declarations of loves, bad-ass dialogs and all that new stuff, Chaplin, in an admirable confidence, did what he did the best, the pantomime, the only language that could fit for the most fascinating cinematic character: the Little Tramp.

And what could have been a timely weakness quickly became the film's ticket for immortality. 1931's audiences applauded the film as a celebration of humanism that could never be imitated again. And only a movie with no words could have touched the hearts of so many people in the world, precisely, during an era where laughs and cheers, trust and optimism were needed. It didn't take a political or a denunciative approach to inspire the hearts, only laughs, cheers and the depiction of the most beautiful and valuables virtues of humanity. No speeches needed, words were as meaningless as these hilarious squawks we heard at the beginning. This gibberish talk is Chaplin reminding us of the futility of words, and we trust him. Maybe, dialogs make you miss the essential in a film.

Antoine De Saint Exupéry, who wrote "The Little Prince", said: "One sees well only with the heart. The essential is invisible to the eyes." I guess for Chaplin, who shared the same humanism of the French writer and pilot, you could translate his view on dialogs by this paraphrase : "One sees well only with the eyes and the heart. The essential is inaudible to the ears" No need for words but in "City Lights", our ears are enchanted by the beautiful "flower girl" melody, and sadness and happiness that inhabit the film has never been so graciously embodied. And while we float in this atmosphere, the action that follows is the tribute of Chaplin's comic genius, his body language and facial expressions are so rich, so fragile I can imagine my inner child being amused by this film, while I'm moved as an adult, by the purity of the character who wants to help this blind girl who sells flowers. "The Little Tramp" is the quintessential clown without a make-up and a true hero, a word often overused, but not in this case.

The Tramp is a hero because of his altruistic nature. He's apolitical but indirectly highlights the social gaps in the modern cities, without letting the film fall into political denunciation. He saves a rich man who wants to commit a suicide and after having developed a fondness for him, the rich makes him discover the world, amusements, dance clubs, parties, all the decadence of the bourgeoisie where the Tramp obviously doesn't fit. But he stands, as a friend, and uses the friendship to help the blind girl who believes he's a rich man. It's the myth of the Charming Prince revisited by Chaplin, through a character driven by his heart. And despise this nobility of spirit, he's constantly bullied, hit, misunderstood. And this is where resides the sadness of the film, the struggle of the Tramp in this journey into the injustices of society. But he's a man, who gets hit but hits back, never remaining a victim, victims are helpless, the girl is helpless, if he becomes so, she has no salvation, the girl is his inspiration, and the only one who never harms him in the film.

And boy, how many hits did he get ... of course, I'm referring to the hilarious legendary boxing scene ... probably one of the greatest Chaplin's moments. It has the format of his short stories, but here it does have a particular meaning, since we know what drives him to do so, he wants to get the money to pay the rent for the blind girl, his challenge is our hope, and we hope he'll get it. And as the ultimate tragic hero, not only he'll help her, but he'll get enough money to cure her blindness, before going to jail, rejected by the same rich friend who gave him the money. Rich are so rich, they're perverted by money, and treat friends as they deal with valuable things, but things have no value, love, feeling and generosity have.

And the value of these things are illustrated in one of the greatest, if not the greatest concluding scene ever, where the blind girl, now cured, after giving the rose to the Tramp, understands that he is the "rich man", the Charming Prince who haunted her dreams. The Tramp is anxious, and timidly asks her if she can see now. The answer of the girl and the breathtaking concluding smile of the Tramp create the most beautiful and inspiring ending ever. Because she had just realized that she saw the essential, which ironically, was invisible to the eyes.
Chaplin excels again by delivering a bittersweet classic that mixes a good story with comedy and a timeless ending
Believe it or not (especially nowadays) there was a movement of actors, producers, and directors that didn't like the addition of speech to cinema. While most of these "voices" didn't hold much weight, they did have one frontrunner that could definitely dent the industry of "Talkies," and that was Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin was so strongly against movies with dialogue, that he continued making silent movies (then eventually with sounds) way after the fad had died. Among his films that defied the industry was the charming City Lights. City Lights is a good bubbly film that has easily one of the best endings in the history of motion pictures. Combining slapstick comedy with good direction, a nice musical score, and a dosage of drama, City Lights is another tour-de-force from Chaplin.

There are two plot lines to City Lights, both of them involving The Tramp (Chaplin of course). In one tale, The Tramp tries to help and win the heart of a blind flower girl (Virginia Cherrill). In the other tale, the Tramp experiences a series of antics with a millionaire that gets drunk every evening with him, but then doesn't remember him the very next morning. Both plots mingle a few times, and complement each other as they advance the story forward. The Tramp in the latter half of the movie falls for the flower girl so severely that he begins working any sort of job to come up with the money to fix her vision.

Chaplin was one of the most talented men Hollywood has ever had the privilege of supporting; the man can act, direct, write, and even compose music. The music helps make up for the total lack of dialogue and very limited sound. His story at the time was a bit original, as the lead female couldn't see, which adds a dimension of innocence to her character. She represents purity, kindness, and what's right with the world. In the meantime, the drunken millionaire represents all that is wrong. The balance between the two gives City Lights its roller coaster feel, much like the city-like atmosphere setting in the movie. Most of the sight/humorous gags were with the millionaire, while the drama was saved for the scenes with the flower girl. Chaplin himself provides all the funniest moments in the movie, especially the incredible boxing scene.

With that being said however, City Lights gets a little repetitive in its jokes, which makes it overall a weaker comedy than The Gold Rush. Whether it's the joke about the amnesic millionaire, the repetitive moments of the kids spitting at the Tramp, or the scene with the chairs; City Lights has a lot of good funny scenes, but they lose flavor and quality once you see them again and again. The Gold Rush doesn't have this problem, as their gags are very varied and never repeat. The Gold Rush also has a much better cast of supporting characters, and has better cinematography.

But, the one thing The Gold Rush doesn't have is the incredible ending that City Lights has. In my opinion, if you can't end the movie on a good note, you better be sure to craft a masterpiece of a flick throughout the first two acts. A great ending can save a movie, and a bad ending can utterly destroy a good movie as well. City Lights has the perfect ending for the content presented; it could not have ended in a better way. At this moment, the directing, editing, acting, and music was at its best; its as if Chaplin had saved his best efforts for last. The payoff is grand, and the tears just might stream down your face. That is, if you know what love is.

Bottom Line: As a modern, bitter, out-of-the-box independent critic, I try to step away from the expected boundaries of the typical film critic; I try to not give in to the regular mannerisms of the people that get paid to criticize movies past and present. The usual film critic shall state that City Lights was Chaplin at his prime blah blah blah. This isn't the case, as Chaplin has done better work before (Gold Rush; his best work) and since (Great Dictator, a long monologue away from perfection). But, this is a good movie, and is one of the earliest examples of a spectacular ending. City Lights is better and ages better than the typical silent movie, it can hold its own with romantic comedies of today. Its charming story will keep you entertained, and its ending will leave you breathless, wondering why movies of today don't try to end in the same fashion (or at least with the same amount of effort). City Lights is a nice "comedy romance in pantomime."
Chaplin's Masterpiece Of Comedy & Pathos
Chaplin edited, wrote, directed, and produced City Lights over a three year period. He initiated the film just before releasing The Circus, and he released it in January of 1931. Talking pictures were all the rage at the time, having been in vogue for a few years at this point, so it's no surprise that Chaplin at least added sound to City Lights, albeit in a limited capacity. The film is deceptively simple both in its plot and in its construction. Chaplin the perfectionist used hundreds of takes once again to get scenes right. As in The Gold Rush and in The Circus, Chaplin used an unknown female for the lead: Virginia Cherrill, who would become one of Cary Grant's wives a few years later. City Lights was Cherrill's debut film, and she and Chaplin did not get along. Chaplin even tried to replace her with Georgia Hale, his lead from The Gold Rush, before realizing it wouldn't be practical. Oddly enough, Cherrill's career lasted only fourteen films.

The film contains all the Chaplin trademarks: Comedy, great editing and performances from the entire cast, pantomime, pathos, perfect timing, sight gags, and a wonderful feeling at the end. A blind flower girl, played by Cherrill, mistakes a tramp for a rich man. The tramp then feels obligated to help the girl. As usual, the plot of Chaplin's film is paper thin, but its execution is what matters. Along the way are many comic highlights including the opening statue sequence, the sidewalk scene with the nude sculpture/statue, saving the millionaire on the waterfront, the spaghetti noodle restaurant scene, and of course the famous boxing scene derived from his earlier film: The Champion.

Chaplin composed the music for this film, and it is the first time he composed the music for the original release of one of his films, although in later years, he composed scores for several of his earlier films and re-released them. The music is quite memorable, and it's perfect for this film. The cinematography and editing are terrific; oddly this would be the last original film Chaplin would edit. The last ten minutes are cinematic perfection and may well be one of the most recognized scenes in the history of cinema. Although the ending itself is ambiguous, the scene is very poignant and moving. The camera dwells on each character's face for just the right amount of time and their faces express everything. Without words, Chaplin gives us one of the greatest endings in motion picture history.

The four principal actors, aside from Virginia Cherrill, enjoyed long successful careers in silent films and then in talking pictures in small parts with the exception of Florence Lee, the girl's mother. This was her last film. Hank Mann, Chaplin's opponent in the boxing match, was the last surviving member of the original Keystone cops. Albert Austin, one of Chaplin's regular actors, appears in his last film in a couple of bit roles. **** of 4 stars.
My first Charlie Chaplin film
This was my first Charlie Chaplin and first silent film. I wasn't sure what to expect and I was surprised that despite the lack of dialogue, it was easy to follow. The storyline wasn't particularly complicated or difficult to understand. The humour also worked well too. Charlie Chaplin is a great comedy performer and here his talents for physical comedy are showcased well.

That being said I did feel like the comedy was overdone at times. There were occasions where the same joke was repeated again and again and I got a little bored. I also didn't find the film entirely engaging. My interest did wander a little at times.

Read my full review here:
A masterpiece
The first movie I have seen. I was 5 years old, and this day I saw more than lights. I laughed I cried and more then that I discovered what I would love to do. To be an actor as Chaplin, make laugh and make weep.

Even today I feel same feeling and emotions about this masterpiece. A wonderful story, with beautiful values, and an amazing looks from Chaplin as a director. The scene of meeting between Chaplin and the sightless flower girl is THE scene of this movie. A genius idea for Chaplin to choose how his character will meet this girl and how this girl could be think that he was a rich man.

The musical score which Chaplin composed for City Lights stay still today one a the most beautiful.

I don't have enough words in English to say why you have to watch this movie ... but you have to. Enjoy!

Wrote by a french guy.
See Also
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