Home Page  
 
 

SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.19:1 Standard
  • English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
  • New audio commentary by Charlie Chaplin biographer Jeffrey Vance
  • Chaplin Today: "City Lights," a 2003 documentary on the film's production, 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
  • Trailers

City Lights

Dual-Format Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Charlie Chaplin
Starring: Charlie Chaplin
1931 | 87 Minutes | Licensor: MK2

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #680
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: November 12, 2013
Review Date: November 28, 2013

Purchase From:
amazon.com  amazon.ca

Share:

SYNOPSIS

The most cherished film by Charlie Chaplin is also his ultimate Little Tramp chronicle. The writer-director-star achieved new levels of grace, in both physical comedy and dramatic poignancy, with this silent tale of a lovable vagrant falling for a young blind woman who sells flowers on the street (a magical Virginia Cherrill) and mistakes him for a millionaire. Though this Depression-era smash was made after the advent of sound, Chaplin remained steadfast in his love for the expressive beauty of the pre-talkie form. The result was the epitome of his art and the crowning achievement of silent comedy.

Forum members rate this film 10/10

 

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Criterion presents Charles Chaplinís City Lights in a new dual-format edition, offering the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.19:1 on a dual-layer Blu-ray and dual-layer DVD. The Blu-ray delivers the film in a new 1080p/24hz high-definition transfer. The standard-definition transfer found on the DVD does not window-box the image.

City Lights delivers one of the stronger video transfers of the Chaplin films Criterion has released so far. Source materials are unsurprisingly its only limiting factor; it has been beautifully restored but the image is still faintly laced with minor scratches, bits of debris, stains, and pulsating, but the digital presentation itself is just about flawless. Contrast looks good with clearly defined gray levels, bold blacks, and excellent shadow delineation. When the source allows it the image is sharp with clear definition, edges plainly defined with no sign of edge-enhancement. Film grain is rendered naturally but is in no way intrusive or heavy.

The DVD looks similar with only the expected shortcomings of the format to be found. Film grain isnít as natural and noise can be a bit more noticeable. But details are really good and contrast also looks pretty sharp.

The filmís age still shows through but the restoration is still impressive, clearing away a lot of the damage I had seen in previous releases. The transfer itself is outstanding.

8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

AUDIO

The film comes with a lossless PCM 1.0 mono track. Made just after the introduction of sound, Chaplin refused to make a ďtalkie,Ē preferring the art of pantomime (one of the title cards proudly proclaims the film to be a ďComedy Romance in Pantomime.Ē) So at its heart it is a ďsilentĒ film so-to-speak but Chaplin did record a soundtrack for it that would have played with it theatrically, which delivered Chaplinís own score and various sound effects through theater sound systems.

It too shows its age but could be far worse. Music can have a smidge of an edge to it but itís still fairly clean and clear. Sound effects are also clear but flat. The transfer does clean-up any background noise and there is no damage of note. Not a spectacular track by any means but itís fine enough and about as good as one can probably expect.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

In terms of supplements City Lights may not be the most loaded release from Criterion but I did find it to be one of the more satisfying editions. The supplements begin with an audio commentary by Chaplin biographer Jeffrey Vance. Vance delivers a rather energetic track and first gives a brief history of the film industry around the time of the filmís release (the introduction of sound being a key moment obviously) and Chaplinís way of working around it. He talks a bit about Chaplinís early life, history, and influences, while also sharing stories about what happened on the set of the film, with quite a few about Chaplinís quick jump to firing members of the cast and crew when they didnít entirely get or agree with his vision. He gets into technical aspects, some of the effects, and then enjoys breaking down sequences to show the genius in Chaplinís ability to construct comedy sequences. Unfortunately he ends up just simply dictating whatís on screen during most of these moments. Thereís nothing too surprising to be gained from the track, and itís pretty standard by scholarly-commentary standards, yet Vance does keep the momentum going and this does make it a fairly entertaining commentary.

The remaining disc supplements then start with Chaplin Today: City Lights, a 26-minute featurette on Chaplin and his influence today. These are found on most of the other Chaplin releases and usually feature a director (or directors) talking about the film in question and Chaplinís work. Other ones featured the Dardenne brothers or Claude Chabrol. This one features Peter Lord, director of Wallace and Gromit shorts, Chicken Run, and other stop-motion animations. Lord, while looking at video playback, breaks down certain sequences and examines how Chaplin built up his pieces. He also talks about how Chaplin has influenced his work and his legacy today. A lot of the material found here is actually covered in the commentary but itís still worth a view just to have yet another director talk about the effect of Chaplin on their work.

Chaplin Studios: Creative Freedom by Design is a 16-minute interview with effects expert Craig Barron. He talks briefly about the history of Chaplinís studio and the freedom it gave him, and then looks at set design work through surviving sketches. He also explains why Chaplin moved from location shoots to shooting on a set, while explaining (with examples) how Chaplin could give the illusion of large sets. Barron has been featured in supplements on some of Criterionís other releases for Chaplinís films, and even on their edition of Harold Lloydís Safety Last! and as usual his piece is illuminating and fascinating.

A section called ďFrom the Set of City LightsĒ Criterion offers four more features. Tramp Meets Flower Girl offers over 8-minutes worth of home movie footage shot by Chaplinís brother, recording Chaplin at work directing the key scene in the film where (as the title of the feature suggests) Chaplinís Tramp first meets the blind flower girl. Heís still trying to figure out how the scene will play out so itís interesting to see some alterations to the sequence. It took him so long to get it right it apparently took over 340 takes before he got what he wanted. The footage, which is without sound (but is narrated by Hooman Mehran,) does also show Chaplin becoming short with his leading lady (who he apparently couldnít stand, even firing her just before the shoot was finished, only to have to rehire her once he realized he would have to reshoot everything she was in) and members of the crew, who all seem less than thrilled. Great behind-the-scenes addition.

Stick Stuck in the Grate is a 7-minute outtake involving the Tramp becoming obsessed with a stick stuck in a sidewalk grate and his battle to get it unstuck. Itís a great scene showcasing Chaplinís ability to build gags up so naturally. It also is fairly funny in and of itself and managed to give me a case of the giggles with the introduction of a mouth-breathing idiot who becomes fascinated by Chaplinís self-created problem. But despite the scene working on its own I can only assume it was cut out because it would have brought the film to a stop for 7-minutes, and we also get a number of city gags already in the film. Still itís absolutely wonderful to get it here.

Window-Shopping Rehearsal provides over a minuteís worth of footage showing Chaplin plan out the window-shopping sequence involving the sidewalk elevator. This footage also appeared in the Chaplin Today feature.

ĒChaplin the BoxerĒ then presents two addition features. First is a 9-minute excerpt from the short film The Champion, which pits the Tramp in a boxing match similar to what was shot in City Lights. Disappointingly itís not the whole film. Criterion also includes Boxing Stars Visit the Studio, which is over 4-minutes worth of footage of Chaplin pretty much goofing around with boxers Harry Mansell and Benny Leonard.

The disc(s) then close with three theatrical trailers: one from the US, another from France, and another from Germany.

The included booklet features an essay on the film by Gary Giddens, followed by an article written for Life magazine called ďChaplinís Anatomy of ComedyĒ. Written by journalist Richard Meryman, it was put together from interviews with Chaplin but is presented as though Chaplin has written the piece. In it he reflects on his work and how he constructs his comedy, and exposes his nervousness when a new film of his is being released. Itís a rather engaging read.

It doesnít actually feel like a lot of material but itís all rather good, all worth going through, and ultimately, all together, the supplements are satisfying.

9/10

CLOSING

Another solid Chaplin release from Criterion, it delivers some great features and sharp digital transfer. It comes with a very high recommendation.


View packaging for this Blu-ray

Share: 



Purchase From:
amazon.com  amazon.ca  




Join our Facebook Group (requires Facebook account)

This site is not affiliated with The Criterion Collection