April 7, 1931 [City Lights]

Charlie Chaplin has no shame--thank God. He is convinced of the virtues of silence, blind girls, and spifflicated millionaires--not to mention the enduring value of some of his oldest routines--and the film built from these convictions rises like New York skyscrapers, a monument to heedless devotion.

And happy the viewer who shares his blind love. Chaplin understands the beauty of unembarrassed sentimentality: It glows in silence and laughter, ironic only in its disdain for all irony. And while the movie could be accused of cynicism toward its audience--giving us a knowing wink, indulging our desire to laugh and cry--and sigh and laugh and cry some more; but Chaplin does not sneer at us: He is too in love with his creation to allow it to slip into Narcissus' pool.

City Lights shines like a strange beacon: After all these decades, is cinema to be lit only by the Little Tramp? Is he enough? A part of me hopes so--the part that's weary and looking for somewhere to lay my head--and waits for the Tramp to arrive, suddenly and without a word, to skid around corners almost too sharp for comedy--but smiling at me, like the music he makes, realizing that tragedy can tell its own lonely story, while comedy demands someone alongside, singing.


  1. Chaplin's Circus was what had all my family splitting again and again....it's difficult to watch a canonised film through your own eyes....it's too long back I saw it...Limelight was more enjoyable..


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