City Lights (1931)

City Lights

Director: Charlie Chaplin Cast: Charlie Chaplin, Virginia Cherrill, Harry Myers, Allan Garcia

Charlie Chaplin’s famous character “the Tramp” falls in love with a poor flower seller, who happens to be blind. She mistakes the Tramp for a wealthy man, a mistake which the Tramp is happy to go along with. The blind girl falls on hard times and the Tramp promises to help her out by whatever means possible.

If I had to sum up City Lights in the shortest way possible, that word would be “nice”, an adjective which I’ve been taught never to use under any circumstances from an early age. But it really is. The film is innocent, sweet and well-meaning, and while the characters have flaws, they are loveable flaws nonetheless. However, this aspect doesn’t take away from the films realism. The protagonist is after all a tramp, the flower girl lives in poverty and all the while we see the opulence of the other end of society in the wealthy man and his life of indulgence.

The film is silent, but Charlie Chaplin’s expressive eyebrows are all the script that the film needs. I had never properly sat down and watched a full-length silent film before this, but I found I got used to it pretty quickly and it wasn’t as difficult to get into the story as I thought it might be. The final scene for which the film is most noted is beautiful, and the feelings get across without the actors saying a word.

There are funny moments, sad moments, frustrating moments and happy moments all squeezed into the short 1 hour 21 minutes running time. It’s hard to think of someone that wouldn’t like this film as it covers a lot of genres, is suitable for all ages and is easy to watch, although the silent aspect of it may put some people off. Definitely a must-see for those who like classic movies.

5 stars

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