Charlie Chaplin‘s Depression-era favorite City Lights is a high-wire balancing act between huge laughs and moments of intense and surprisingly poignancy. Despite the fact that talkies were all the rage when this movie was produced in 1931, Chaplin decided that this story would be most powerful as a silent film. He was right. In this effort — which earns a permanent place in many critics best-ever films list, Chaplin’s Little Tramp manages to charm, and be charmed by, a blind flower girl (Virginia Cherrill), and finds he may have the means to help her through his new comradeship with a hard-drinking millionaire (Harry Myers). What follows is a thoughtful and stunningly complex and powerful look at what it means to truly be wealthy.
The Criterion Collection edition of City Lights is a triumph that includes the following features that allow you to fully immerse yourself in the film’s whimsical, heartbreaking world:
- New digital restoration from a 4K film transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray.
- New audio commentary by Charlie Chaplin biographer Jeffrey Vance.
- Chaplin Today: “City Lights,” a 2003 documentary on the film, featuring Aardman Animations cofounder Peter Lord.
- Chaplin Studios: Creative Freedom by Design, a new interview program featuring visual effects expert Craig Barron.
- Archival footage from the production of City Lights, including film from the set, with audio commentary by Chaplin historian Hooman Mehran; a costume test; a rehearsal; and a complete scene not used in the film.
- Excerpt from Chaplin’s short film The Champion (1915), along with footage of the director with boxing stars at Chaplin Studios in 1918
- PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Gary Giddins and a 1966 interview with Chaplin and a new cover illustration by Seth.
For more on Charlie Chaplin and City Lights, check out our MovieFanFare archives.