City Lights

Tracing the Tramp's efforts to help a blind flower seller, City Lights is Chaplin's most balanced and potent blend of humor and poetic pathos, with a strong strand of class consciousness. Episodes of pointed comedy, beginning with the Tramp unveiled in the lap of a statue at a pompous civic gathering, lead fluidly to almost unbearably poignant moments, such as when the flower girl at last recognizes her impoverished benefactor. James Agee called this climactic scene “the greatest piece of acting and the highest moment in movies.” The film was two years and $2 million in the making. By the time it was released, Hollywood had made the transition to sound, but Chaplin determined that City Lights would be free of dialogue, with a score composed and carefully supervised by him. His perfectionism paid off in a box-office triumph, and a film that many critics consider the pinnacle of his art.

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