(Originally written June 25, 2007)
There is not much to say about Chaplin’s undeniable masterpiece that has not already been said. It looks at a poor man’s struggle with class differences, alienation in a cruel world, the difficulties of finding employment, and relationships while simultaneously being entertaining and absolutely beautiful. This film is great because it deals with what is a very tragic scenario and turns it into something very warm and humanistic. The Tramp in this film has only two friends, and neither of them know who he is—a drunken millionaire who has no clue who Chaplin is when sober and a blind young woman who thinks that the Tramp is a rich aristocrat. In the midst of these circumstances, Chaplin’s Tramp is able to stand up for himself and fight with a loving heart. He is a lovable character without being perfect—although he’s willing to get a job to earn money for the woman he loves, he’s also as willing to push aside another person to pick up a used cigar tossed aside by an aristocrat. More so than the other Chaplin films, all the scenes gel together in cohesion beautifully to comment about life in the city for a character such as the Tramp. The romance in this film is so genuine because the film does not necessarily end happily ever after, but in what is perhaps the most discussed closing shot in the history of the cinema, the film ends on an uncertain note that is more joyous than any other ending could have been. Instead of focusing on the romance itself, it becomes a moment of recognition, a moment in which the Tramp is finally known by someone for who he actually is. By doing so, he gains his individuality and identity in the eyes of himself, the woman he loves, and me as a viewer.