Home Video Picks & Passes 04.03.16
City Lights (1931) — PICK
The Manchurian Candidate (1962) — PICK
Two classics are new on Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection: a silent comedy and a Cold War thriller.
The first is Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights, perhaps the quintessential “Little Tramp” film — not the funniest (that might be The Gold Rush), nor the most heart-tugging and thought-provoking (that might be Modern Times, the film picked by the Vatican film list), but the most perfectly crafted and satisfying of all his films. It is the most representative of all the different textures and tones for which Chaplin is remembered, from slapstick and pantomime to pathos and sentiment, farce and irreverence to melodrama and social commentary.
The film’s poignancy lies in the way two supporting characters — a blind flower girl and a heavy-drinking millionaire — are able to accept the otherwise unacceptable Tramp precisely because of their differing forms of “blindness.” Whenever the millionaire is sober, he has the Tramp thrown out, but welcomes him as a friend when drunk. Would the flower girl befriend the Tramp if she could see his rags? The emotion of the delicately subdued final scene is overwhelming.
The other is John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate, a masterpiece of paranoia cinema blending elements of film noir, war movie, political satire, science fiction and psychological thriller. The storyline, which stars Laurence Harvey as a Korean war hero named Raymond Shaw who was brainwashed by Soviet captors and programmed to assassinate a presidential candidate, took on a grimly prophetic aura a year after its release when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald, who claimed to be a patsy, like Harvey’s character.
Bonus pick: Fans of The Hunger Games movies, you can now pick up a box edition of all four movies on Blu-ray. As grim as the dystopian franchise is, I found these films more thoughtful than most action fare these days and a provocative critique of the culture of death. Bonus pass: All three of Fox’s Fantastic Four movies have new Blu-ray editions. You didn’t need me to tell you to stay far away from all of them, did you?
Caveat Spectator: City Lights: Recurring drunkenness and numerous thwarted suicide attempts; slapstick violence. Even so, fine for kids. The Manchurian Candidate: Deadly shootings and other violence; a brief brothel sequence (nothing explicit); some cursing. Teens and up.
- April 3-16, 2016