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Cinema According to Víctor Erice

Saturday, August 1, 2015
4:00 p.m. City Lights
Charlie Chaplin (US, 1931)

Part of It’s a Wrap! celebrating our final weekend in the PFA Theater


Tracing the Tramp’s efforts to help a blind flower seller, City Lights is Chaplin’s most balanced and potent blend of humor and poetic pathos, with a strong strand of class consciousness. Episodes of pointed comedy, beginning with the Tramp unveiled in the lap of a statue at a pompous civic gathering, lead fluidly to almost unbearably poignant moments, such as when the flower girl at last recognizes her impoverished benefactor. The film was two years and $2 million in the making. By the time it was released, Hollywood had made the transition to sound, but Chaplin determined that City Lights would be free of dialogue, with a score composed and carefully supervised by him. His perfectionism paid off in a box-office triumph, and a film that many critics consider the pinnacle of his art. It is a film for which Víctor Erice has felt "complicity" throughout his life; he describes its finale as "one of the simplest, most intense, and most revealing images of the whole history of cinema."

• Written by Chaplin. Photographed by Roland Totheroh, Gordon Pollock. With Chaplin, Virginia Cherrill, Florence Lee, Harry Myers. (87 mins, Silent with music track, B&W, 35mm, From Janus Films/Criterion Collection)