This review of the movie shall take a different treatment to the cinema. We shall be analyzing the movie on the whole with the social problem or issue associated with it, which was prevalent at that time and might be still relevant today. There is a variety of social issues that the movie highlights. Those are the divide between the rich and the poor, the humanism, and the conscience of the mankind, both from the perspectives of the rich and the poor. There is an inherent link between all the three issues that our review shall also try to establish. Our review will focus on primarily the human conscience and try to analyze the reactions of the rich millionaire, when he was drunk and sober and the possible reasons behind it.
The reactions of the rich millionaire when drunk and when sober are worlds apart and form an interesting scenario in the movie. It also very subtly point towards the divide in the society between the rich and the poor. The rich millionaire meets our lovable tramp, when the former is trying to commit suicide. The tramp in his comic pantomime saves the millionaire and they become the best of friends. All this happens when the millionaire is in the inebriated state. The tramp is invited home and then taken to party. He is given expensive clothes to wear and made to appear as one of the ‘elites’. All who meet the tramp accept him as one of their own and dance and party with him. However, when the millionaire sobers up, he immediately distances himself from the Tramp. It indicates towards the social setup of that time which in many senses still exists today. Just wearing the expensive clothes makes you one of the riches and the high society shall welcome you with open arms. However, making a social faux pass is unacceptable to them and one is immediately ostracized for doing that. This is especially visible when the Tramp swallows a whistle and the party is immediately silenced.
Also it can be a comment on how meaningful and satisfactory the relationships of the rich might be. They possess all the material comforts, but are without any real friends or family. The millionaire tries to commit suicide following his divorce, and makes the tramp his friend, while being drunk. It is when drunk that he feels lonely and seeks company that the Tramp provides. When drunk, the millionaire does not make friends on the basis of social status. The Tramp offers his friendship to him, and takes care of him and ensures his safety. However, the Tramp is shocked at the way the millionaire treats him when he is sober. The message plays very well with the audience considering the financial depression that existed during the period (Benefield).
Notice how the conscience of the drunk changes. He takes his guard down and dismisses the social status when drunk. There is an inherent innocence and simplicity to his actions. However, notice how quickly he wears the mask of the rich as soon as he sobers up. The millionaire assumes the social high place and refuses to be associated with the tramp. The human values of equality are dismissed when the millionaire is alert. He even accuses the Tramp who he wishes to help when drunk, of stealing from him.
The use of double is also of special notice. The duality of Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp as the poor and the rich brings about the use of the tendentious comic style in pantomime.
More than being a comedy romance pantomime, the movie provides a commentary on the society, not just from the economic perspective and love but also the relationship between truth feeling and images. The movie explores the relationship between sight and love and metaphorically comments on the relationship between wealth and appearance. As the movie explains that the love and sight are mutually exclusive, so are the wealth and appearance. In a remarkable way, the movie also comments on the truth, honesty and simplicity in the silent movie to the talking era.
City Lights. Dir. Charlie Chaplin. Perf. Charlie Chaplin, Virginia Cherrill, Harry Myers Polygram, 1931. Film.
" City Lights" eyeforfilm. James Benefield, n.d. Web. 08 May. 2010.