Sunday, December 5, 2010

"Limelight" is a Touching Film

Charles Chaplin was an incredibly versatile performer. Of course, he was known for his "Little Tramp" character, but he was also a writer, producer, director, composer and a groundbreaking business mogul. He was also one of the founders on Universal studios. This 1952 film, in which he starred, wrote produced, directed and scored, is a poignant tale of two people who help each other to discover their purpose, and re-discover hope in their lives.

Chaplin plays Calvero, an aging, alcoholic comedian who has all but given up. He arrives home one day to find that his neighbor, Terry, played by Claire Bloom, has made an attempt on her own life. Calvero pulls her out of her apartment, takes her up to his and nurses her back to health. Along the way, he tells her of his life as a comedian, and she tells him of her aspirations to become a ballet dancer, and of a love lost. He works to convince her that her dream is worth pursing, and she tries to convince him that what he does still means something. Most of the film is filmed in Calvero's third story boarding house apartment, and each person's story is told through a series of flashbacks. Together, they learn of each other's past, help one another through the present, and move together into the future. Upon realizing her dream, Terry meets the man she supposedly loves, Neville, played by Chaplin's son Sydney, a composer. Neville tries to convince Terry that she loves him, but she is drawn to the older Calvero. He in turn, tries to convince her that she does not love him, but he cannot help but share her feelings.

While watching this film, one cannot help but make comparisons to Chaplin's own career. At the time this film was made, a new media in television was quickly coming on the scene, making Chaplin's profession one for the older generation. While the setting of the film is set in 1914, the story definitely mirrors the times in which it was filmed. Chaplin's portrayal is multi-layered. He's funny, as one would expect, but he's also inspiring and dramatic. Bloom's character also has many dimensions. Terry, at the onset of the film, is despondent, but while she's being cared for by Calvero, she shows a lightness. Both are shown, and she moves back and forth between the two seamlessly. There are many minor roles in the film as well, but there are a few that stand out. The first is the role of Neville. I wasn't aware that he was played by Chaplin's own son, because on screen, the two seem to have a disdain for each other. Secondly is the role of Mrs. Alsop, Calvero's and Terry's landlady, played by Marjorie Bennett. Mr. Alsop appears to have nothing but hatred for her tenants. Once Calvero begins to take care of Terry, she refers to them as "living in sin". She calls Terry "trouble" and seemingly has no qualms about rendering her homeless. However, she is easily manipulated by Calvero's charming personality. Finally, Buster Keaton plays a small role as Calvero's stage partner. Their scene together in the latter part of the film was one of the best scenes in the film. It showed how brilliant the two men were, not only separately, but together as well.

There's no doubt that Charlie Chaplin was an excellent and inventive filmmaker. Even in his later film, such as this, it's not hard to see it and be overwhelmed with a sense of awe. Having not seen his other post silent-era films, I can't make any comparisons, but if they're as good as this one, I will be seeing them soon. I highly recommend this film, not only for the Chaplin fan, but anyone who likes a film with excellent acting and dialogue.

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