Monday, October 22, 2007

City Lights

This is only the second Charlie Chaplin film I’ve seen (the first, by necessity, being The Great Dictator), and while I’ve rather enjoyed both, I’ve yet to see a reason why he’s thought of more fondly than Buster Keaton, who was easily the superior silent comic. That little bit of thoroughly unwarranted snottiness out of the way, let’s get on with this film.

For some reason, Chaplin was afraid to make the transition to sound (The Great Dictator, made in 1940, was his first talking picture), and so City Lights, released about 4 years after the rest of Hollywood have moved on from silent films, still had no dialogue, and only featured audio in the form of music and sound effects. The film’s plot was simplistic enough not to really need any dialogue, so it didn’t really matter (it does open with a politician giving a speech, but his speech is vocalized by a kazoo); instead, we are treated to an almost pastoral series of vignettes, as Chaplin’s famous Tramp character careens into the lives of his town’s various inhabitants, most notably a blind flower girl and an alcoholic millionaire. He plays these scenes alternatingly for light hearted comedic or sentimental value, as romance blooms between him and the flower girl and he undertakes a series of jobs to help her out.

It’s a pleasant enough film, with a nice air of whimsy about it, but the jokes never really build up enough to where it becomes truly hysterical. Still, even if it’s not a great comedy (or romance), it kept my interest and ensured I had a smile on my face the whole way through, and I guess there’s not too much more you can ask for than that.

Rating: ***

No comments: