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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Satire > Drama > Great Depression > Romance > Biography > Art > Posters > Filmmaking > Promotion > City Lights (1931/Charles Chaplin/Criterion Blu-ray w/DVD)/Drew: The Man Behind The Poster (2012/Drew Struzan/Kino Lorber DVD)

City Lights (1931/Charles Chaplin/Criterion Blu-ray w/DVD)/Drew: The Man Behind The Poster (2012/Drew Struzan/Kino Lorber DVD)

Picture: B & C+/C+ Sound: B- & C+/C+ Extras: A-/B- Films: A-/B

These new releases bookend two eras of Hollywood, one at the beginning of great comedy and the other at the end of classic movie poster art.

Charlie Chaplin's City Lights (1931) is one of the groundbreaking geniuses masterpieces of pure cinema up there with the likes of his best shorts and full-length films like Modern Times (1936, also just issued by Criterion in a superior Blu-ray we highly recommend) taking a profound, clever, deeply honest and highly comic look the world we live in. The core of all of his brilliant, enduring humor is an honest, unrelenting vision of who we are and how we interact with the world and its changes.

This incredible love story is concerned with the ability and inability to find love, happiness and piece of mind in a changing world, especially one at the time that was starting to industrialize and technologize. Can he find love with a poor blind gal (Virginia Cherrill) who thinks he is a millionaire when he is back in his Tramp persona? Can class division and a Great Depression stand in the way of the power of love? Are we too quick to allow the attractiveness of a bright, sparkling, technical tomorrow get in the way of personal growth and happiness? Can we do anything to stop the downsides of any of this?

That is just the beginning of the many questions this brilliant film poses and to be blunt, it is as relevant as when it was first made like all true masterpieces, but the fact that it is a comedy actually makes it more powerful and unstoppable in making its points while being so often a laugh riot. Chaplin was at the peak of his powers when he made this film and it has a love of the city, but never totally puts that over a love of self, a love of people and is extremely healthy in the way it deals with it all. An all-time cinematic triumph, this upgraded, restored version of the film makes all those ideas more palpable than ever and without explanation, shows again why Chaplin is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. Catch this version of it ASAP!

Extras are many and include yet another great booklet featuring an essay by critic Gary Giddins, a reprint of a 1967 Time Magazine interview with Chaplin and the usual technical information you get in all Criterion releases, while the Blu-ray and DVD adds Chaplin Today: City Lights, a 2003 documentary on the film's production, a brand new feature length audio commentary by Charlie Chaplin biographer Jeffrey Vance on Chaplin, the film & much more, Chaplin Studios: Creative Freedom by Design, a new interview program, archival footage from the production of the film including film from the set, Original Theatrical Trailers and an excerpt from Chaplin's great short film The Champion (1915).

For more Chaplin on Blu-ray, see our coverage of his underrated 1947 masterwork Monsieur Verdoux on Criterion Blu-ray at this link;


Erik P. Sharkey's Drew: The Man Behind The Poster (2012) is a documentary and biography of the amazing poster painter Drew Struzan, the last of a long line of serious artists who made the movies greater than just digital effects-overloaded package deals with awful scripts, bad acting and tired formulas that all seem to have the same badly made posters with giant headshots of the actors shots generically and stuck in the poster space in boring ways. The work Struzan made people want to see the films more and sometimes was better than he film that was finally released.

We said more about this aspect of his work and more when we reviewed the book on his art (more in a minute on that), but what makes this solid 97 minutes work is the personal thoughts by Struzan, his wife and best friends including some of the biggest names in the business. It is also a biography of the industry for better and sadly worse, but also a portrait of how artists always struggle to do great work and how few manage to break through. Struzan did and this makes for its own amazing story, even more impressive than those of the many films he helped make more successful.

Extras include Additional Interviews, San Diego Comic Con Panel presentation promoting this documentary and the Original Theatrical Trailer. However, you can read more by getting the great coffee-table hardcover book about Struzan's amazing work from 2010 (as printed by Titan Books) which you can read more about at this link:


The 1080p 1.19 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on Lights is a new 4K scan of the two high quality duplicate negatives and shows how hard work in preservation and restoration on the part of fans of the films, archives and the Chaplin estate have paid off. You can still see the age of the materials used in parts, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film and is a film that is 82+ years old and counting, so that is to be expected.

Director of Photography Richard Totheron and Chaplin have incredible shot after incredible shot and so many memorable scenes that it only furthers the laughs and sense of being where the characters are. The best shots are stunning quality wise and will surprise those used to seeing the best silent-era films restored and preserved. It is just in a few more places than expected, you can see flaws, but this is impressive overall otherwise and shames many current feature film shoots.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Drew is mostly from newly shot HD footage with few rare instances of motion blur and visual flaws, plus the occasional vintage film and video footage, including analog video.

The PCM 1.0 Mono sound on the Lights Blu-ray is mostly instrumental and transferred at 24-bits, sounding just fine and since this is a silent film, the quality is only so prominent, so the lesser, lossy Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono on the DVD is not as distracting as it might otherwise be. The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on Drew is mostly interview/talk based and rarely does the multi-channel arrangement kick in for any reason, but the sound is well-recorded enough.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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