Charlie Chaplin is an icon. Arguably the most iconic character in Hollywood history. No matter what part of the world you travel you’ll find a Charlie Chaplin fan. He perfected the loveable tramp role. Chaplin influenced many of celebrities of all genres (like Michael Jackson, Mr. Bean), spawned numerous spoofs and invented routines that are still timeless.
Chaplin was an actor, writer, director and song-smith (writing Petula Clark’s #1 hit “This is my song”) who did it all with City Lights (acted, directed, wrote and scored the music).
City Lights was often regarded as his greatest movie success (though I’d argue that his Hitler impression in The Great Dictator was his best role) and heralded as the last great silent movie before talkies came into existence. It also had the dubious distinction as being the first rom-com (and the best according to AFI) which paved the road for the Jennifer Anistons and the Sandra Bullocks in the world. I’m uncertain if this was a good thing.
From the opening scene, Chaplin’s deliberate timing still produces chuckles. He was a true master of his craft and he was in his prime when this movie was released. I was sceptical and surprised about the usage of kazoo noises for the beginning when people spoke (think of the Charlie Brown adults but done with vuvuzela from this year’s FIFA Cup). Thankfully, this method was gone by the introduction of Chaplin.
City Lights follows two main plots: Chaplin falling for a blind girl who thinks he’s rich, and Chaplin saving a rich man who tried to commit suicide. These two plots intertwine whereby the girl regains her sight due to a miracle 1931 operation leading up to the most heartfelt ending when she finally sees Chaplin for the first time. Their facial reactions in that final scene speak volumes more than all of Carrie/Mr. Big meetings combined. This short 3 minute scene at the end is why this movie is so great.
Up to that point, it is your typical Chaplin fare with pratfalls, silly misunderstandings, funny misdirections and classic routines (City Lights drowning scene).
There are plot holes (like how the rich man somehow manages to leave for Europe from New York at noon one day…then arrive back from Europe the next day to help Chaplin out of a situation) but when the purpose of this movie is to spotlight Chaplin and put him in as many zany situations that can be alloted in a 90 minute movie, this can be forgiven.
City Lights is an average movie and story with some extraordinary emotional acting (really watch the final scene between the two!).
7.4 blind flower girls out of 10