Saturday, November 14, 2009

Limelight (1952)

TOP 100 FILMS: #58

Calvero (Charlie Chaplin), a once legendary stage clown, now little more than a drunk, saves the life of Terry (Claire Bloom), a ballet dancer who is attempting to commit suicide. As the two battle harsh life circumstances together they manage to find the courage to live in the middle ground.

While many note this film for its legendary sequence in which Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin take the stage for one grand performance, I have to say that's well down on my list of why I love this movie. Beautiful, heartbreaking, and insightful, Limelight is Chaplin's realistic look at the struggles of entertainers. His taking the stage with Keaton represents such a powerful moment in this character to merely idolize for its historical comedic value is to undermined its shear power in the film. This tale of the two characters, one young and one old, one struggling to start the other struggling against an inevitable end, brings about such a beautiful set of characters and writing that I feel emotionally bonded each time I watch this movie.

While many will often note Chaplin's comedic talents, his acting in this film is utterly superb, full of heart, and depth that extends well beyond the screen. Newcomer Claire Bloom, despite her inexperience flaws, is elegant as the emotional spark Calvero needs to find meaning in life. These characters' ups and downs throughout the course of the film give so much heart to Limelight it's impossible to avoid a sense of attachment to them. The trials they must face seem real, unforced, never sacrificing in favor of a more Hollywood story, Chaplin created a character masterpiece. Filled with wonder and heartbreak, love and loss, these characters reach out to the audience in ways few films can accomplish.

Perhaps the most pressing aspect of Limelight is Chaplin's willingness to go deep into the story and really push the barrier on tough issues. Dealing with poverty, suicide, alcoholism, and psychological disorders of the such, Chaplin never shies away from the serious issues. Tackling each head on Chaplin carefully maneuvers through many life events, all the while maintaining a sense of fluid storytelling. It's Chaplin's skill behind the camera that really makes the entirety of Limelight work. His talent with writing and directing bring new life to this character drama, and while the laughs are there in typical Chaplin style this movie is by no means your typical Chaplin film. All of which culminate in a finale so perfect I can't help but be moved to tears each time I watch it.

Beautiful, poetic, and perfect, Chaplin's 1952 masterpiece Limelight is one of those film that sticks with you, regardless of how many times you view it.

1 better thoughts:

Ging said...

your comentary makes me really want to see the movie.

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