By Scott Ross
I’m taking a leaf here from John Simon, who once said his favorite of these two “silent” masterpieces was whichever one he’d watched most recently. I often think City Lights has the edge, until I see Modern Times again, and then I’m not sure. The latter has Paulette Goddard at her most appealing, a beautifully composed finale, and Charlie caught in the cogs of a factory machine and, later, performing French-laced gibberish as a singing waiter.
But the former has a final shot that, as James Agee once said, constituted “the highest moment in movies.” If it fails to move you, your heart is a dishrag.
Text copyright 2013 by Scott Ross