Top positive review
Clowntime is over
on July 18, 2003
To this day, the audiences don't know whether to laugh or cry when encountering this long-winded melodrama about an aged performer and a troubled young ballerina.
Director Bernardo Bertolucci is among those who consider "Limelight" Charles Chaplin's masterpiece. When the tramp clown breathes his last, "Who is dying here is not Calvaro, but Charlie Chaplin," Bertolucci says in the DVD documentary. "With 'Limelight,' tears flow very easily."
The MK2 documentary for "Limelight" is the Chaplin Collection's best so far. It covers the period in which Chaplin left the United States, only to return once, reluctantly, for his honorary Oscar.
The docu doesn't address the old charges that Chaplin spiked Buster Keaton's best work in the film. Regardless, the extended Keaton-Chaplin slapstick sequence remains the highlight for many viewers. The DVD photo gallery includes W. Eugene Smith's terrific stills of the men at work.
The film enjoy across-the-board improvements in video and audio, including digital transfers from Chaplin family elements and Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes. Imaginative bonus features inform and entertain without wearing out their welcome.
"Limelight" extras include footage of Chaplin getting a hero's welcome in London and revisiting the places of his youth. Home movies from the 1950s show Geraldine Chaplin as a child and teenager. (The great Chaplin comes across like any other proud goofy dad, playing with his kids.) A hilarious 1919 short shows Chaplin on the loose as a flea-circus wrangler.
Chaplin and his collaborators' luscious score, which won a belated Oscar in 1972 -- once the film finally qualified by screening in L.A. -- can be enjoyed separately, as an extra. The music sounds fine in mono or in the 5.1, but the surround seems to introduce some boominess.
The film has an intro by Chaplin biographer David Robinson, rendered pretty much useless by placement on disc 2 (almost all of his information is repeated in the docus anyway).