Limelight (1952) : Review
Charlie Chaplin is a phenomenon and he will remain so until there is a single movie buff. Undoubtedly he is the tallest trump till date. When Artist of Chaplin stature put something autobiographical on screen it is bound to catch attention of all cinema lovers. When I was searching about Chaplin’s Limelight I got amazed by realizing unlike other master pieces of Chaplin this film has not got enough attention of critics that it deserves.
Before going further I must confess that I watched this film just because I wanted to watch Chaplin’s all available films. Unfortunately Limelight is not very popular as Chaplin’s other great work like The Great Dictator, Gold Rush, Modern Times, and City Lights etc. Unlike Chaplin’s more popular films Limelight has no reflexive relation with any social issue. Most probably this is Chaplin first film in which Master has reflected on his own life as a Super Star Comedian who keeps his pain in heart for self and smile on lips for others always.
In a nut shell this film is about a yesteryear superstar comedian Calvero (Chaplin) and promising Ballet Dancer Terry (Claire Bloom). Ironically Calvero who has past his best and Terry who has yet to come to his best both were living a hopeless life until they become source of inspiration for each other. One may wonder how it can be possible to reach same end for two persons going in opposite direction from each other. But it happened and it happens just because Calvero and Terry both are afraid of Life they have. That is why Calvero said to Terry that” Life can be wonderful if you’re not afraid of it“
Calvero (Chaplin) tried to regain his old glory with the help of his old agent cum friend but didn’t succeed. On the other hand young Terry was able to get selected for main lead for a ballet. Young Musician of the company who happened to be ex silent-lover of Terry of her teen days recognized her and expresses his love for her. Terry refused his love and said that she is in love with Calvero. Coincidentally, Calvero listen that. He realizes that he is being hindrance in Terry’s life. He left home to get his-self out from her life. Parting of Calvero without saying a single word left Terry in deep sorrow. But she keeps herself working. Her hard work got paid and she becomes a star.
On the other hand Manager of the company found Calvero at a bar side as a street performers. When manager got amazed with this trodden state of life of Calvero he wanted to show sympathy with him but Calvero replied him as “There’s something about working the streets I like. It’s the tramp in me I suppose”. Calvero has simply no remorse for his present street life. Subsequently Terry got know about Calvero. She and company manager persuaded Calvero to give one last performance on stage. It seems that Calvero himself was waiting for this last chance. With his last performance Calvero proved himself as a true artist. Just after before the end of his performance he encountered the heart attack on stage and finally got collapsed. No one from audience knew that Calvero last act was not an act but was a deadly massive heart attack. Audience gave him great applaud for his matchless performance which finally took his life.
This Film is for artist and for those who want to understand the artists. This film is like a philosophical loud thinking of a Great Artist. Above mentioned dialogues in bold letters are few to show the texture of the film. There are dozens of take away one liner in this film. I would like to mention my two favorite ones.
Calvero to company manager (about himself as an artist): “That’s all any of us are: amateurs. We don’t live long enough to be anything else”.
Calvero to Terry (about performing which he seems to hate): “I also hate the sight of blood, but it’s in my veins”.
Like all meaningful things this film also need to be patient with. If you are for any high drama or cheap thrill giving revelation about Chaplin life better you avoid this film. Otherwise you will be hugely disappointed.