I am appalled that it has taken me until the year 2004 to see the artistic beauty of Charles Chaplin's "City Lights."
"City Lights" was filmed in 1931, four years after the beginning of "talkie" films. Chaplin, however, maintained his commitment to silent films and with "City Lights" creates a delightfully honest, silly, romantic and magical film experience in a way that is so seldom captured on film today even with the myriad of technological advances available in this modern time.
"City Lights" is the story of The Tramp, played by Chaplin, who struggles to help a blind flower girl he falls in love with, played by Virginia Cherrill.
In an age where films seem to be ruled by distraction and chaos, "City Lights" is a remarkable breath of fresh air. Without a single uttered word, Chaplin (who also wrote and directed this film) creates a film of such warmth and compassion that I found myself in complete awe of the vision I was watching. I was captivated by Chaplin as he saved the millionaire, fell in love and struggled to remain hopeful and fully alive.
Cherrill, who Chaplin reportedly fired near the end of the shooting of this film when she arrived late one day (only to re-hire her when he realized re-shooting with a different actress would bankrupt the film), is simply mesmerizing here and maintains an innocent yet uniquely romantic chemistry with Chaplin that radiates across the screen. Watching the two of these performers unfold throughout the film is simply a hypnotic and joyous occasion.
"City Lights" is filled with laughter and light, hope and desperation. It is a film with one of the most singularly powerful, emotional and timeless endings of any film in any era, regardless of the technology available.
Charles Chaplin didn't, to my knowledge, make a bad film during his career. Chaplin was a gifted actor, director and writer who manifested cinematic magic onscreen. Without a word, he captivated the movie screen unlike the vast majority of actors today. "City Lights", a member of the National Film Registry since 1991, is Chaplin at his most human...his most hopeful...his most enchanting. "City Lights" is, without a doubt, one of the brightest films in cinematic history.