"Tomorrow the birds will sing."
Before Raging Bull or Rocky, Charles Chaplin brought us one of the most memorable boxing scenes in film history. The scene is so well choreographed and performed by Chaplin that it proves what a genius he truly was. It's been more than 80 years since the film was released and it still remains as one of the best romantic comedies ever made. City Lights has a lot of heart, several funny moments, and a perfectly executed final scene that will touch even the hardest hearts. I've seen many famous scenes from Chaplin's work, but this is the first time I sat through a full movie of his. It was a unique and joyous experience despite the fact that I'm not the biggest fan of pantomime and some of the gags run a bit too long. Chaplin was not only a great actor, but he also was an excellent director, writer, and composer. The film is well edited and the technical achievements are surprisingly good. In the midst of the talkie revolution Chaplin decided to remain silent despite adding some amusing sound effects and he proved that powerful stories could be told without dialogue. It's a work of pure genius and a film that all film lovers should experience on their own. City Lights has encouraged me to begin a Chaplin marathon during this week and I think it's going to be a lot of fun to get to know one of cinema's most beloved characters: the tramp.
Charles Chaplin plays the Little Tramp once again in City Lights and this time he meets a blind flower girl (Virginia Cherrill) with whom he falls in love. Without her knowing it, he follows her to her home and discovers she is in financial troubles, so being the selfless little tramp he is he decides to try to help her out. Despite not having any money, the tramp tries to find ways to help her out while she mistakenly believes he is a millionaire. The tramp begins looking for work and even enters a boxing ring in order to make some money to help the girl pay for an operation that will restore her sight back, but he is unsuccessful in most of his endeavors. While searching for a place to rest one night near the city's river he accidentally runs into a millionaire (Harry Myers) who is about to commit suicide. The tramp saves his life and the two get drunk together and become friends. The only problem is that when the millionaire is sober he forgets about his friend so their relationship is on and off depending on the amount of alcohol he has had.
City Lights has a simple premise, but the way Chaplin tells the story is very captivating and heart warming. His physical performance is among the best I've seen and his facial expressions are priceless. There is also an underlying message behind his funny and touching tale and the tramp represents the best side of humanity. The themes of selflessness, kindness, and classism still resonate in our society today. If you weren't won over by the story in general I am sure the ending will touch everyone and the hilarious boxing scene will tickle even the most grumpy hearts. City Lights is a film full of grace and you don't see movies like these made any more. During a troubled time after the Great Depression, Chaplin managed to maintain a sense of humor and bring joy and laughter to an era that was very much in need of it.