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City Lights

Chaplin, neverendingly empathetic to his characters—and thus to their real-world counterparts, usually the poor and downtrodden of American society—crafted perhaps his crowning achievement with this 1931 silent, one of the last of its kind, coming well into the sound era. His famous Tramp character here falls head-over-heels in love with a blind flower girl (a marvelous Virginia Cherrill), but considering her inability to see the Tramp’s perpetually dishevelled outward appearance, various misunderstandings ensue as he valiantly tries to raise money for an eye operation. “Orson Welles, Robert Bresson, and Andrei Tarkovsky all named City Lights as their favorite film of all time—what further recommendation do you need? 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.”—Ben Sachs, Cine-File Chicago.

Appears in: Friday Film Club

Genres: Silent Film, Comedy

Other Films by Charlie Chaplin

The Gold Rush

In search of gold in turn-of-the-century Alaska, Charlie takes refuge with a fellow prospector in an isolated, comically imbalanced cabin where hunger forces him to eat that famous boiled shoe.

Modern Times

Perhaps Chaplin’s foremost contribution to the preeminent art form of the 20th century and routinely voted amongst the greatest films ever made, Modern Times slyly moves through the various stages of mass labor, with Chaplin’s Little Tramp (now The Worker) as the repeated fall guy. Factory worker, repeat offender and prisoner, mechanic, accidental protester, nightclub