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Critics reviews
City Lights
Charlie Chaplin United States, 1931
The sublime City Lights was Chaplin’s riskiest and most complicated undertaking, a silent film made just as studios were fully committed to sound. Utilising music and sound effects, it was also a marriage of sentiment and slapstick, the elements of which had to mesh with acrobatic precision. Setting the tone is the opening, in which The Tramp endures a series of self-inflicted run-ins with a gigantic civic monument, a scene that is at once side-splittingly funny, risqué, and beautiful.
August 22, 2017
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Here is one of the perfect movies, as well as the apotheosis of Chaplin’s mix of humor and sentiment… As for the Tramp’s relationship with the blind flower girl, it is one of the most moving in cinema, as direct, funny, and heartwarming a depiction of love as one could imagine.
February 03, 2017
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This deeply eccentric film stands as the purest and most sublime of Chaplin’s masterpieces… Funny, bittersweet, and sensitive on levels that few movies can ever hope to reach, City Lights is one of the definitive romances of the big screen, building from episodic slapstick into one of the most moving endings in film.
February 11, 2016
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The gut-twist ending is an eight-car pileup of all that had previously been held at bay, sometimes by nothing stronger than a ceremonial adherence to Dickensian suspense and other storytelling expedients. But as precisely orchestrated crescendos go, the finale works like the proverbial gangbusters, something on the order of the big finish at the end of the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.”
November 29, 2013
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It is a testament to Chaplin’s prescience that “City Lights,” which began production in 1928, at last debuted more relevant than it would have been if it came in on a reasonable schedule. For though the film stands as perhaps Chaplin’s most good-natured feature, it is also one of his most scathing. Its opening setpiece alone is one of the artist’s most ingenious, multifaceted political statements…
November 11, 2013
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Despite its great success, City Lights is not one of Chaplin’s best films. The mawkish plot, involving a beautiful blind flower girl who mistakes the Little Tramp for a millionaire, is even more shameless than The Kid… What City Lights does have is one of the most touching closing shots in film history, when the Tramp trembles before the gaze of his beloved flower girl, who at last can see.
February 01, 2009
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My favorite Charlie Chaplin feature - his first sound picture, but not, properly speaking, his first talkie-is also probably the one on which he exercised the most patience and perfectionism… Interestingly enough, and significantly, the tragic final sequence, in close-ups, rightly regarded as the most emotionally wrenching sequence in Chaplin’s career, is edited in such a way that it has glaring continuity errors, none of which matter in the slightest because of the power of his performance.
January 01, 2008
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In the end of City Lights, the tramp is presented for who he is. It’s naked self-exposure. All anyone wants, Chaplin tells, is not merely to be loved, but to be loved for being oneself. The sublime final shot takes us to this ontological, base level of humanity—after all this, can the Tramp be accepted as he is? What an unnerving, uncompromising, vicious ending.
December 25, 2007
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City Lights (1931), which wanders between episodes involving Charlie’s love for a blind flower girl and his friendship with a drunken millionaire who doesn’t know him when he’s sober, is a beautiful example of Chaplin’s ability to turn narrative fragments into emotional wholes. The two halves of the film are sentiment and slapstick. They are not blended but woven into a pattern as eccentric as it is sublime.
January 01, 1975
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