Choosing a favorite Charlie Chaplin film is a bit like deciding which of your kids you prefer. It feels intrinsically wrong. Still, general critical consensus has elevated City Lights above the rest, routinely placing the 1931 masterpiece on lists of the greatest movies of all time.
A stern judge, obsessed with questions of lineage and social order, casts out his pregnant wife for supposed infidelity. A fatherless child born to the slums falls in love with a girl impossibly out of his league, only to meet her again under much different circumstances as an adult.
Released in the closing days of the Silent Era, with production wrapping the same month The Jazz Singer premiered, Chaplin’s The Circus is a film that seems to know it’s aesthetic is on its way out the door.
Even with City Lights and Modern Times still to come, there’s an air of finality to it, perhaps most movingly encapsulated by its closing frames: we watch the circus leave the town and The Tramp behind, no better off than when he arrived to amuse the crowd at the start.
It is an article of faith among your more generous cinephiles that you should never be embarrassed by the classics you haven’t yet seen. Everyone has blind spots, no one has time to see everything, and a gap in your viewing only indicates how much you have to look forward to!
Part of an ongoing effort to watch each of the films in Roger Ebert’s Great Movies series. The introduction and full list can be found here.
Why did the image of Harold Lloyd‘s “Glasses character” – pasty, spectacled, straw boater still perched precariously on his head – dangling from the minute hand of a clock 12 stories up become one of cinema’s most enduring images?
It’s awards season, and there’s no shortage of commentary. I might chime in myself in a few weeks. (Spoilers: Boyhood, Ida, The Immigrant, Under The Skin, and Noah would win all the things if it were up to me, and Uma Thurman would get a best Supporting Actress nod for Nymphomaniac Vol 1 — it is not, it turns out, up to me.)