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Monday, September 9, 2013

195 of 1001 Movies: City Lights (1931)

In one of the last silent movies made before the takeover of the talkies, Charles Chaplin combines the use of sound and no talking to make an unique film that drew me in way more than I expected it to. It is a good showcasing of why Chaplin is the classic he is. Sadly, I think his personal life has made him a difficult subject for people to talk about these days. I don't even remember Chaplin mentioned in any of my video or media classes despite him being one of the biggest innovators of film. City Lights though is unlike many movies of the time while silly it is also charming and has a sweet romance to move it along.

Summary: A tramp falls in love with a blind girl that he finds selling flowers on the street. She has some financial problems though, and he has the ability to help her. The tramp has recently become friends with a millionaire who has taken the tramp under his wing and made him a benefactor. The millionaire though is a drunk who sometimes forgets who the tramp is leaving him in a bad situation when the blind girl needs him most when she finds herself unable to make rent.


Acting: The acting is quite superb. I thought over acting just came with the territory of silent movies, but Chaplin shows you can act without all the over showing of emotions and get us into the character of a silent movie. Charlie Chaplin is the only recognizable face in the movie, but the other actors play it well too, and I thought the humor was well done too, and I found myself chuckling a few times with the antics going on on the screen. There is a reason the The Tramp is such a cinematic character, and that is because Chaplin made him so personable.

Filming:  The movie is well shot and I think it brings out a lot of the emotions and feelings of the characters since they can't say anything. Plus, the score is very good and it flows well in the movie without too many awkward pauses. Chaplin could have done this movie in sound though, but he was hesitant to change to talkies because he though there was less artistry in a movie that wasn't silent. So instead of going full blown talkie he instead allowed the use of some sound in the movie like for the ambulances, muffled speaker talking, and the like. It makes this a very unique movie among what is out there actually because I haven't watched any from the time that everything was right on the verge of getting away from all silent.

Plot: The plot is very sweet and shows that even in 1931 the romance didn't need to be cheesy to feel like it was romance. I loved the ending of the movie and thought it was the perfect amount of just being subtle enough so it wasn't too in your face.  The plot also stays on path. It doesn't drift to all these ridiculous moments that make no sense to the plot and it throws loops into The Tramp's plans to help out the blind girl enough to keep us in suspense.

If you're going to watch a silent movie that is appealing and charming, with well done characters, then City Lights is one to recommend. I didn't expect to even laugh a little to a movie from this time period as most the humor hadn't appealed to me so far. It's a romantic classic though, and great way to gauge just how much romance has changed.

Rating 8 of 10.


City Lights (1931) on IMDb

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