Warner Home Video
Cast: Charles Chaplin, Claire Bloom
Extras: Featurette, Home Movies, Deleted Scene, Original Score, Footlights, Short Movie, and much more
"Limelight" was Charlie Chaplin’s last film in the US before he was driven out of the country by the fanatic McCarthy/Hoover witchhunts. It is a highly self-reflective movie that sheds a lot of light on Chaplin’s own life, as well as his fears and experiences. Telling the story of a comedian who has lost touch with his audience and a ballerina who is afraid to face life, Chaplin once again manages to tell a story with heart, intelligence, comedy and drama like no one else can.
Upon returning home one day, the aging, unemployed comedian Cavero (Charles Chaplin) finds his young neighbor unconscious form an attempt to kill herself. Immediately he rescues the poor soul and takes her in for care. As she recovers and gathers strength, a strong bond grows between them as Calvero introduces Thereza( Claire Bloom) to his inspiring views of the world. Highly philosophical at times, Calvero also seems to have the right words for the right moment, but once he is alone, he feels an emptiness of his own, one that used to drive him into drinking. Desperately he tries to find work as a comedian but fails, while Thereza, a former ballerina, slowly manages to get back on her feet and start a career of her own.
Many of the characters and locations of the film are reportedly based on Chaplin’s own family, including his parents, friends and relatives. It is a highly introspective movie and Chaplin was even able to include his family members in the making of this film. All of his children, as well as his wife Oona, make appearances in the movie, and his eldest son Sydney is playing a major role in the film alongside his father.
One could reminisce forever about Chaplin’s movies and the man himself. I will nto do that because I have always felt that his work speaks volumes for itself and doesn’t need explanation or interpretation, really. Chaplin always had a message and a mission, and it is always there on the screen for everyone to see. While he also worked with subtexts, they are so well integrated and executed that they drive their message home without most viewers even noticing. "Limelight" is no exception and it is a shame that the film originally suffered from the political climate it was born in, but fortunately it has survived beautifully. Absolutely timeless, "Limelight" more than others tells its story of ambition, hope, love and failure with an eloquence that is heartfelt and honest. And to know that Chaplin once again had his hands in essentially every aspect of the production, makes it so much more personal, still.
Warner Home Video has painstakingly restored this film, along with others, and releases it in a 2-disc set with a number of exciting extras. "Limelight" is presented in its original <$PS,fullframe> aspect ratio and the image quality is simply spectacular. There is not a single blemish in the print. Every single frame has been meticulously cleaned up, stabilized and even registration problems have been correct. The result is a presentation of "Limelight" like you have never seen it before. Period!
The audio has also been restored and cleaned up. Despite the technical limitations of the original production, the audio track sounds very clear and fresh. The frequency response is good and natural and even dynamics exhibit a pleasant range, making the presentation of "Limelight" an incredible joy. Add to that a new <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> remix and you’re set for life… well, until a high definition version comes out, that is.
Warner Home Video has also added a number of great features on the second disc of the release. A featurette about the movie, complete with cast interviews featuring the film’s star, Claire Bloom, and Chaplin’s son Sydney, who played the pianist Neville in the film, as well as discussions by historians and other filmmakers, this is a truly phenomenal addition. Sadly, someone seems to have forgotten to include the translation subtitles to this featurette, which sadly diminishes the segments featuring Bernardo Bertolucci speaking Italian.
Also included is home movie footage of Chaplin with his children and wife Oona on various occasions, as well as tidbits and information on a variety of topics surrounding the film and Chaplin’s work. An image gallery is also included, as well as "The Professor," a 7-minute short film that was never completed, in which Chaplin first explored the flea trainer character.
One of the highlights of this release however is the original score for "Limelight" in Stereo. Composed by Chaplin himself, this 59-minute jewel is giving audiences the chance to experience the film’s wonderful music, including his singing numbers, all by itself and admire Chaplin’s incredibly multi-faceted talents all the more.
The DVD is rounded out by two excerpts from "Footlights," the novel Chaplin wrote as an outline for the movie, read by Charles Chaplin himself.
One can’t thank Warner Home Video enough to putting so much effort behind "Limelight" and the other Chaplin movies. The resulting quality is simply staggering, utterly belying the movie’s age, giving today’s audiences the chance to witness Chaplin’s timeless genius. There can be no question that the releases of "The Chaplin Collection" belong into any collector’s library.