BP’s Top 100 Movie Challenge #66: City Lights, by Sarah Brinks
I decided to undertake a movie challenge in 2017. This seemed like a good way to see some classic movies that I have unfortunately never seen. The Battleship Pretension Top 100 list has a good number of films I hadn’t seen before so it is a good source for my challenge.
I have always enjoyed Charlie Chaplin’s “Tramp” character – what struck me the most watching City Lights was how genuinely kind and sweet the he is. His kindness often works in his favor, but he doesn’t seem to do it for personal gain, he is just a kind-hearted man. He saves a suicidal millionaire from killing himself and he gets to live like the upper crust for short bursts of time and he is able to help the woman he loves.
The physical comedy in City Lights is fantastic. There are simple jokes like the Tramp eating a piece of long, curly confetti after he mistakes it for pasta, or getting his pants caught on a statues sword, or the millionaire accidentally pouring two bottles of booze into the Tramps pants. But there are also some elaborately-choreographed sequences that are still effective today. The Tramp is not really known for the big showy stunts that other silent film actors like Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd did. He is known for the choreographed gags that we see all through City Lights. The scene when he saves the millionaire from suicide and ends up in the river as well as the boxing sequence were probably my two favorites.The boxing scene, in particular, can almost be counted a piece of modern dance. The way the Tramp, his opponent, and the referee all move together is beautiful to watch while also comedic but with a sense of danger too.
City Lights opens with a card saying it is a love story in pantomime, and the film delivers on that promise. The love story between the blind girl and the Tramp is sweet and innocent and genuine. She doesn’t judge his clumsiness or poor dress, and the Tramp genuinely wants to help her. When he learns she is behind on rent he puts everything out there to win a boxing match against a superior opponent and when that doesn’t work and his millionaire friend offers him one thousand dollars he gives all that money to the girl for an experimental medical procedure to fix her blindness. He loses everything for her including his freedom but in the end she is able to see who he really is and still care for him.
I’ve decided to rate each film using an arbitrary scale based on the board game Battleship (lowest: Destroyer, Submarine, Cruiser, Battleship, highest: Carrier)
City Lights ranking: Carrier