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City Lights Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Review

City Lights Blu-ray

Writer/director/actor Charlie Chaplin is at the top of his game in “City Lights.”

“City Lights” is a deceptively simple story about Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp character falling in love with a blind flower girl. The majority of the film follows the various misadventures of the Tramp as he pals around with a distraught millionaire (who only recognizes him when he is drunk), tries to impress his dream woman (while pretending to be a wealthy man) and, eventually, tries to earn money in order to pay for his beloved’s rent and eye surgery.    

Often cited as Chaplin’s masterpiece, “City Lights” is an expertly staged silent comedy that boasts incredibly touching and award worthy performances by Charlie Chaplin and Virgina Cherrill (in her first major role). Their on screen chemistry is entirely convincing from the first scene they meet to the tear jerking heartfelt ending (which might be one of the best endings in cinema history). Unlike many romantic comedies which often feel like the characters are being forced together, you always feel invested in these two characters. For the entire running time, you want things to work out between these kind, lonely, poverty stricken souls. Yes, we know that the Tramp is misleading the woman by pretending to be someone else, but, by the end, we know that he would do anything for her (including serving jail time).

Characters, drama, and romance aside, the movie also provides plenty of laughs. In the pantheon of classic Chaplin comedy moments, there’s no doubt that the boxing sequence and the drunken dinner outing are two of his finest (and funniest works). Aside from those two great bits, there’s also a myriad of other memorable moments involving a swallowed whistle, window shopping, and a monument. Yes, one can argue that more screentime could be devoted to scenes between the Tramp and the blind girl instead of a few of the sight gags, but you don’t want the film to be too melodramatic. This is, after all, meant to be a comedy.

On a side note, I have to give a shout-out to comic artist Seth for his incredible cover art here. If you haven’t read any of his graphic novels, I highly recommend you do so.

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 1.19:1 1080p. How does it look? “City Lights” has never looked better than with this new digitally restored transfer. Hi-def upgrades of silent films never cease to amaze me as they continue to offer up astonishing clarity (as evidenced by the 1080p picture quality of Chaplin’s 1931 classic).

Audio Track: Uncompressed Mono. How does it sound? From the mock talkie opening to Chaplin’s majestic score, this track is bound to please film buffs.

Extras:
* Another outstanding booklet featuring an essay by author Gary Giddins and a 1966 interview with Charlie Chaplin by Richard Merryman.
* 3 trailers for “City Lights.”
* “Chaplin Today: City Lights”- A 27 minute documentary that contains an interview with director Peter Lord, information about Charlie Chaplin’s career and characters, a breakdown of “City Lights,” film footage and outtakes, etc.
* “Chaplin The Boxer”- A 10 minute excerpt of Chaplin’s boxing centric short “The Champion.” I’m not sure why Criterion didn’t just include the entire half hour short here, but what can you do?
* “Boxing Stars Visit The Studio”- Silent archival footage from Chaplin Studios of Charlie Chaplin goofing around with boxer Harry Mansell and others.
* “Chaplin Studios: Creative Freedom By Design”- Visual F/X guru Craig Barron chats about the history of Chaplin Studios, Chaplin’s artistry, film sets, and art direction on his films.
* “From The Set Of City Lights”- A wonderful 4 part extra that includes an outtake, set footage of Chaplin directing a scene, window shopping rehearsal footage, and a costume test.
* Commentary by author and Chaplin biographer Jeffrey Vance. This commentary feels more like an in-depth essay about “City Lights” than a commentary. With that said, it’s still full of factoids and information that will appeal to fans of Chaplin.

Overall Thoughts: “City Lights” is a heartwarming reminder that although the world can be cruel and painful place, there’s also beauty in it too in the form of love.

November 20, 2013 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , ,

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