City Lights (1931)
In a time when film industry was making its transition to talkies & silent films were becoming obsolete, Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights entered into the theatres as a late example of its era yet in the long run, it didn’t just turn out to be the greatest achievement of silent filmmaking but has endured the test of time so well that it still remains the quintessential romantic comedy.
The penultimate silent feature from Charlie Chaplin, City Lights chronicles the adventures of The Little Tramp who falls in love with a beautiful blind girl who sells flowers for a living. His desire to make her life better becomes a possibility when he saves a suicidal, drunken but wealthy man from killing himself but their friendship continues to be on/off depending on his drunk/sober state.
Written, produced, directed, edited & scored by Charlie Chaplin, City Lights is the pinnacle of Chaplin’s exceptional film career that presents the extraordinary artist at the apex of his talents, both in front & behind the camera. From its opening moments where the film mocks the unrefined technology used in early talkies to the heartbreaking finale, this unparalleled classic is pure lyrical poetry.
The screenplay is exquisitely penned down, beautifully balances the elements of romance & comedy, and each segment is properly weighed before its transition on the film canvas. The technical aspects are a work of perfection as Chaplin leaves no stone unturned to make it all work in harmony. Cinematography wonderfully captures its drama, Editing is immaculate & the soundtrack seamlessly integrates into the narrative.
Although Chaplin has always been a perfectionist but what he manages to accomplish with City Lights is something far greater than any his previous works. Slapstick humour is a constant ingredient in his filmography but the precision balance he finds between the elements of comedy & romance in this feature is so flawless that it hasn’t been equalled ever since. Plus, the perfect comic timing further elevates this great cinema to an even greater level.
Coming to the performances, the cast comprises of Charlie Chaplin, Virginia Cherrill & Harry Myers, with all three leaving a lasting impression. Myers is hilarious as hell in the role of the suicidal, drunken millionaire, Cherrill brings a warmth to her character while Chaplin is at his usual best and shares a spot-on chemistry with both of them. But it’s the memorable finale that marks the highest-point of Chaplin’s acting career & it’s just as heartwarming as it is heartbreaking.
On an overall scale, City Lights finds the most gifted film artist crafting his finest piece with precision, accuracy & controlled artistry and is completely deserving of its unprecedented legacy. An unforgettable example of silent cinema, an ideal blend of art & entertainment, an unsurpassed achievement of its genre(s), and a timeless treasure that’s just as awe-inspiring today as it was back during its time of release, Charlie Chaplin’s magnum opus comes one hundred percent recommended.