This time of the global pandemic has been tough on the movie industry especially with cinemas being closed for months and studios postponing new releases, releasing some films directly to streaming, or just putting films on hold. However, it has given people in the film industry innovative ideas to create movie experiences that are both fun and safe. And, in addition to those two important elements, some of these experiences are also nostalgic. Recently, at the Music Box Theatre’s lounge garden, I saw the 1931 Charlie Chaplin classic, City Lights. The film was restored and shown outside to an audience of just twenty people. I have never laughed so hard during a 1930s Chaplin film. The outside Chicago ambience on a summer evening made City Lights a truly captivating, nostalgic experience.
City Lights focuses on a silly tippler that has fallen in love with a blind lady. He struggles with various frustrations due to her blindness, but decides to pursue quirky scenarios to help her medically. The lead is the Tramp, played by Charlie Chaplin. The film tells the story by including text during some scenes and also through the body language of the characters. Chaplin’s movements and facial expressions were what really hooked me on City Lights. I found his persistent ideas to find ways to get money for medical purposes both inspiring and memorable. The background of the Music Box Garden made the setting feel like we were in the era of Chaplin which I found rewarding.
When it comes to Chaplin comedies, I believe that showing his films at events like this should be done much more often. City Lights is a true representation of Chaplin and what made him into a Hollywood icon. Even though he has been dead for many years, his movies still sell many Criterion DVDs and his films are regularly screened at Art House cinemas. In addition, his quotes about life and his witty dialogue throughout his career have spanned many generations. Chaplin once said, “A day without laughter is a day wasted.” He was right, and if I did not make it to that City Lights screening. I felt my day would have been wasted, because once the film started I could not stop laughing.
Overall, the City Lights experience allows the audience to feel like we are not in an era of technological advancement and the set-up keeps people safe during the pandemic. The film was satirical which had the socially distanced crowd around me laughing throughout the film. I love the Music Box Theatre, their lounge garden, and Chaplin. This was an event that was worthy, and there will be more. Four stars.