87 minutes| U.S.A.| 1931| Black and White| Silent| Blu-ray

Purportedly Woody Allen’s favourite screen comedy, City Lights is perhaps Chaplin’s most perfect blend of humour and pathos. The Tramp has saved a suicidal millionaire from drowning. When drunk, the millionaire treats Charlie like a prince, showering him with money that he donates towards an eye operation for a blind flower-seller (Virginia Cherrill) whom he loves. When sober, the millionaire treats the Tramp despicably, finally accusing him of theft and having him sent to prison. Alongside passages of inspired pantomime is the serious theme of social blindness and the insensitivity of the haves towards the have-nots. Everything builds towards the famous last shot, one of the most heart-rending close-ups in movies. Chaplin’s endeavour to be comedy’s social conscience as well as its finest clown is not to everyone’s taste, but those critics who deride his comic genius are, in Sean French’s phrase, ‘like molehills saying that Mount Everest’s reputation for height was undeserved.<

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