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City Lights

USA 1931. Dir: Charles Chaplin. 87 min. DCP

Albert Einstein is said to have cried with laughter at the world premiere of Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights in Los Angeles in 1931. Described by Chaplin himself as “a comedy romance in pantomime,” this winning mix of slapstick, sentiment, and social criticism has Chaplin’s beloved Little Tramp falling in love with a blind flower girl. When he discovers that her sight can be restored through expensive surgery, he goes to extraordinary lengths to raise the necessary money, including an hilariously ill-advised turn as a prizefighter. She, for her part, believes her unseen benefactor to be a handsome millionaire. A synchronized musical score and comic sound effects were Chaplin’s only concessions to the new sound era; the film has nary a word of spoken dialogue. James Agee called the famed final scene “the highest moment in the movies.” Orson Welles cited City Lights as his favourite film.


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REVIEWS

"Chaplin's most masterful blend of pathos and comedy ... You can't leave the planet without seeing this movie at least once."

San Francisco Gate | full review

"Come[s] the closest to representing all the different notes of his genius."

Roger Ebert | full review

"It’s the most human of Chaplin’s films, and arguably his greatest."

New York Magazine | full review