Monday, August 3, 2015

AFI Top 100, #76: "City Lights" (1931)

Movie Stats:
Released 1931 (USA)
American, in English (the film is silent but the scene cards are in English)
Director - Charlie Chaplin
Stars - Charlie Chaplin, Harry Myers, Virginia Cherrill

Plot Summary:
When a tramp (Chaplin) befriends a suicidal millionaire (Myers) by saving his life, wacky hijinks ensue. Cherrill co-stars as a blind street flower vendor, with whom the tramp becomes enamored.

Minor violence; mild sexual humor.

Bad Stuff:
The humor is of a more juvenile nature. A lot of scenes reminded me of those old Warner Brothers cartoons. I suppose they must have copied Chaplin’s style, which isn’t his fault, but because of that I knew where every joke was going to go before it went there.

It’s very high on the “1930s movie sentimentality” scale.

I found the ending unsatisfactory. I thought there were two clear directions it could have gone, either of which would have made sense, but it aimed to hit somewhere between those two directions and it didn’t really work for me.

Good Stuff:
I liked the soundtrack.

As always, Chaplin’s physical comedy, especially his facial expressions, carries the movie.

I enjoyed the whole boxing scene.

The Verdict:
Unfortunately, with the way Chaplin’s movies fall on the list, and what movies are in between them (i.e. movies I’ve already reviewed), that means I’m ending up having to watch several of his movies in a row. This movie definitely suffers from the fact that I saw Modern Times recently. To me, “Modern Times” is a much smarter film than this one. It’s a scathing social commentary, whereas “City Lights” is a romantic comedy. I’m not totally sure why it’s on the list at all, let alone placed above “Modern Times.” That being said, it’s not a bad film. It’s entertaining, there’s some really funny stuff, and if I weren’t so inundated with Chaplin, I might have enjoyed it more. 

I give the film 3.5 stars.


Patricia said...

I wonder how many of the people who voted/created this list actually watched the movies they were voting on again before they voted. Actually, I'm interested in how the list was created. "Send me your top 10"? "Here's a list of 200 movies, pick your favorite 50"?

There are some really good movies that I love that I haven't watched in a very long time. And sometimes when re-watching them, they aren't quite as good as I remembered.

balyien said...

There doesn't seem to be any transparency in regards to how the list was created, at least not that I can find. I'm quite certain that, if there was a list to choose from, voters didn't re-watch and simply went with the "I remember really liking this" criteria. As you've suggested, that's not a great idea. There are a lot of movies I loved 20 years ago that don't hold up to further review. And there are some that I hated 20 years ago but have come to love. I suppose there's going to be some head scratchers on any list simply because taste is so subjective.

In other news, I'm considering a list of top 100 contemporary movies for my next project. Or perhaps one of Rotten Tomatoes' top 100 lists.