Posts Tagged ‘Chaplin’

City Lights-1931

Many film scholars while discussing Chaplin films, make it a point of Chaplin being still stuck into silent mode (as though he was caught off guard) while movies were celebrating the freedom of sound all around. Of course talkies brought some silent stars to greater fame while ruined career for a few,- John Gilbert being one, Charley Chaplin may not have had anything to fear from sound. By 1931, the Marx Brothers had already unleashed two talkies in their inimitable style but Chaplin had nothing to fear from that quarter since their styles vastly differed. His tramp image had too solid a base to weather the advent of talkies for sometime. In fact he resisted for three years when he made the film. However he gave the film a full musical score (composed by himself, perhaps not in the same class as the theme for Limelight) and sound effects, but he stopped short of speech. But for all that City Lights is a masterpiece and its strength shines through in spite of it.
I think the genius of Chaplin lay in more than abundant measure, in areas where he could convey better in mime than sound; in pathos, drollery or pure cussedness, sound could not have been a proper substitute. In order to illustrate my point think of that famous scene in The Gold Rush where he tackles a boiled shoe? Not a word is necessary and gestures speak volumes and actions in their physical detailing, how he spears shoelaces for example, make words redundant. Take the last scene of City Lights where the blind girl sees for the first time his ‘benefactor’ the close up shot of the tramp registers everything that needed to be said in the expression.
‘If only one of Charles Chaplin’s films could be preserved, “City Lights” (1931) would come the closest to representing all the different notes of his genius. It contains the slapstick, the pathos, the pantomime, the effortless physical coordination, the melodrama, the bawdiness, the grace, and, of course, the Little Tramp-( Roger Ebert /  December 21, 1997)
Charles Chaplin as the Little Tramp, makes the acquaintance of a blind flower girl (Virginia Cherrill), who gets an impression somehow that he is a millionaire. There is a subplot in which the tramp rescues a genuine millionaire (Harry Myers) from committing suicide. When drunk, the millionaire expansively treats the tramp as a friend and equal; but sober, he doesn’t even recognize him. These two story lines come together when the tramp attempts to raise enough money for the blind girl to have an eye operation. In the end it is a casual gift of a thousand dollars from his drunken millionaire friend that eventually will pay for the operation. Unfortunately like many of the tramp’s efforts things go wrong: he is mistakenly accused of stealing by the millionaire who, as I said earlier, is entirely another persona when sobers up.
He had tried raising funds by honest methods (street sweeping and a hilarious sequence in the ring) and before he is caught by the law, however manages to pass on the funds to the girl for the operation. And the poignant final scene splices pathos, slapstick and what have you, shows the blind girl who can see now for the first time. It is magnificent, and an inspired finale to some eighty minutes of fine film-making. Rightly this film deserves the praise of being the best picture of 1931 to have rolled out of Hollywood studios.
Similar Movies
The Circus  (1928, Charles Chaplin)
The Kid  (1921, Charles Chaplin)
Modern Times  (1936, Charles Chaplin)
The Vagabond  (1916, Charles Chaplin)
The Tramp  (1915, Charles Chaplin)
À Nous la Liberté  (1931, René Clair)
Limelight  (1952, Charles Chaplin)
For Heaven’s Sake  (1926, Sam Taylor)
Mon Oncle  (1958, Jacques Tati)
Allou To Oniro Ki Allou To Thavma  (1957, Dimitris Loukakos, Petros Yiannakos)
Movies with the Same Personnel
Modern Times  (1936, Charles Chaplin)
The Kid  (1921, Charles Chaplin)
The Great Dictator  (1940, Charles Chaplin)
Limelight  (1952, Charles Chaplin)
A Woman of Paris  (1923, Charles Chaplin)
A King in New York  (1957, Charles Chaplin)
The Circus  (1928, Charles Chaplin)
The Gold Rush  (1925, Charles Chaplin)
Other Related Movies
is related to:      Unknown Chaplin: Hidden Treasures  (1983, Kevin Brownlow)
Unknown Chaplin: The Great Director  (1983, Kevin Brownlow)
30 Years of Fun  (1963, Robert Youngson)
Chaplin  (1992, Richard Attenborough)

Cast & Credits
A Tramp: Charles Chaplin
Blind Girl: Virginia Cherrill
Her Grandmother: Florence Lee
Millionaire: Harry Myers
Millionaire’s Butler: Allan Garcia
Prizefighter: Hank Mann

A film directed, produced, written and edited by Charles Chaplin. Photographed by Mark Marklatt, Gordon Pollock and Roland Totheroh. Music by Charles Chaplin, arranged and conducted by Alfred Newman. (Some modern video versions have the Chaplin score re-recorded by Carl Davis.) Running time: 87 minutes.

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René Clair is considered to be one of the pioneers of modern comedy, particularly in French film. His An Italian Straw Hat (1927), which is considered his silent masterpiece, shows his consummate sense of timing, and there is ample evidence of it in this movie also.

The title translates roughly to “Liberty for us”. It is memorable for many reasons. As Arthur Knight suggests in The Liveliest Art, “Perhaps the first director to appreciate fully the implications of sound was the Frenchman René Clair,” a statement that is confirmed throughout À Nous la Liberté. There is little real dialogue, music being often relied upon to do the “talking.” The film however backward when compared to the present multitrack, THX standards constituted a significant development in the then-controversial movement to marry once and for all sound and image. One of the great ironies of René Clair was that he like Chaplin, had initially been one of the staunchest opponents to making the movies talk.

À Nous la Liberté is also memorable for paving the way for  Charlie Chaplin (whose Modern Times was accused of plagiarizing À Nous la Liberté by the film’s production company) and Jacques Tati (Mon Oncle, Playtime). It is a smart and funny social satire about modernization, a theme that was apt and timely for a world reeling from the Great Depression. It also showed a radical idea of freeing oneself from the controls of social and economic oppression.
‘The tale itself, M. Clair’s own account of two prison pals, first inside and then away from jail, is sufficiently lucid, but the manipulation of the incidents is quite another matter. The characters frequently give vent to their thoughts in song, whether they are behind the bars, in a factory or in a banquet hall. And unlike M. Clair’s previous hilarious contribution, “Le Million,” the humor in this new venture, despite its farcical nature, is provocative of thought rather than laughter’. M. Hall, NY times 1932
Life behind the bars is as regimented and dehumanizing as a blue-collar worker whose life is spent about an assembly line. The opening shot of À Nous la Liberté takes place in a prison, in which we see prisoners whiling away the hours putting together toy horses along a long, assembly-line-like table. When they eat, it is again at a long table, their hand movements from plate to mouth a synchronization that could only be choreographed by repetition day in and day out. And, when they get up to leave, it is in regimented fashion, one following after the other.
It is here that we meet the film’s two protagonists, Louis (Raymond Cordy) and Emile (Henri Marchand), who stand out immediately because they have the audacity to wink at each other and show signs of life. Having hatched a scheme to escape prison, they are halfway out when the plan falls apart; Louis makes it over the wall to freedom while Emile, the smaller and sadder of the two, sacrifices himself and goes back to prison.
How Louis avoids detection is delectable. The convict, once in the street, bowls over a speeding cyclist. While the dazed man is on the ground, Louis, who has disrobed down to his underwear, rides away on the bicycle. And Louis is greeted by a throng as the winner of the cycling race.

Once free Louis begins selling phonographs, quickly rising up to become the 1930s version of a media magnate, a dig at Charles Pathé, a French movie tycoon who got his start selling phonographs. Louis presides over a huge corporation that builds more and more factories to churn out more and more phonographs quicker and quicker. The prison life has at least taught him to wear a straight jacket of another sort and thanks to Mr. Ford. It is a none too subtle way of showing how dull and monotonous modern life can be.’ Quality time, anyone?
Emile is later released from prison and lives happily as a vagrant, that is, until he finds himself in one of Louis’ factories and comes face to face with his old prison buddy. At first, Louis tries to get rid of his old friend; but, after being with Emile, who is portrayed as the ultimate free spirit, his stuffy, legitimate-businessman exterior quickly melts. The rest of the movie follows a series of increasingly slapstick incidents involving Emile’s desperate-hearted pursuit of a factory secretary, which results in a chaotic climax in which top-hated businessmen scurry around chasing money in the wind while Louis turns his factories over to the workers.
In the final fade-out Louis and Emile have discovered liberty away from prison and work—they are happy tramps, glad to get a few sous with which to buy bread.
‘Throughout À Nous la Liberté, Clair structures his story along musical lines, giving his gags and slapstick situations a rhythm and flow. The delectable musical score by Georges Auric, who had previously scored Jean Cocteau’s fantastical Blood of a Poet (1931), gives the movie an upbeat tone and helps it move through some of the more extreme transitions (Clair, already a master at visuals, adds to the flow with his use of match cuts and dissolves). The film is a musical in the sense that the characters sing at various times, often variations on the film’s theme song, yet the songs and the music always feel fully integrated into the narrative.’( film desk review:james kendrick)

Henri Marchand gives a commendable performance as Emile, and Raymond Cardy is capital as the more vigorous Louis. Rolla France is pleasing as Jeanne, and Paul Olivier is excellent as the girl’s uncle.

A NOUS, LA LIBERTE, written and directed by Rene Clair;
Emile . . . . . Henri Marchand
Louis . . . . . Raymond Cardy
Jeanne . . . . . Rolla France
The Uncle . . . . . Paul Olivier
Paul . . . . . Jacques Shelly
The Foreman . . . . . Andre Micaud
Maud . . . . . Germaine Aussey
An Old Man . . . . . Leon Lorin
An Old Convict . . . . . William Burke
An Orator . . . . . Vincent Hyspa

Similar movies: City Lights, Modern Times, Playtime,The Shawshank Redemption

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