City Lights film posterLast night I attended the Butler County Symphony Orchestra‘s November concert, in which they performed the film score to Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights as the movie played.

The symphony sounded amazing, well-timed to the film and perfectly attuned to the emotional ups and downs of the film. The film itself was a surprise to me. I thought I’d seen it before, but no, I’d somehow missed this one — all the more surprising since this is considered one of Chaplin’s greatest works.

The physical gags and running jokes in the film are excellent, as I’d expect in any Chaplin movie. But what surprised me was the emotion, particularly that of the Little Tramp. I think of Chaplin films as broad and silly, light-hearted and fun, and on the whole this followed that recipe. But the end of the film isn’t light at all. It’s touching and open-ended, and it’s not clear — at least not to me — what might happen next. I’ve found myself thinking back to it all day.

If like me you’ve somehow missed this particular piece of film history, seek it out. It’s being rereleased on Blu-ray this month, or you could rent it on Amazon Prime. Or if you’re very lucky, you might find it being shown with live accompaniment, which is the very best way to see it.

Image source: wikimedia.