So, as you all know, Friday night was the annual KUER RadioWest broadcast and a presentation of silent film at the Capitol Theater. It was great, and the Capitol Theater was completely packed. There’s a lot I could write about Charlie Chaplin and City Lights, but I will limit my comments to the following observation of last night’s events.
There were two moments during City Lights during which the audience lost all emotional control. Because I was literally weeping with laughter during one scene, I couldn’t really see the screen and consequently noticed that many people in the audience around me were literally howling–men, women, and children all roo-ing like my family’s old Beagle, Esme, who oft sang her lamentations to the full moon. These people in the audience weren’t really even making noises of joy or sorrow, but simply vocalizing primal, animalistic sounds. For a few minutes, the audience was completely out of control, experiencing some sort of cathartic explosion of emotion.
The first time this happened was during a scene in which the drunk Chaplin repeatedly insults and challenges gentlemen in a night club, half-removing his jacket in a totally ridiculous fashion in response to each incident.
The next time this happened was about 2 minutes into the scene below. The amazing thing is, the end of the scene leaves the audience completely stunned and silently mourning for the tragedy of the little tramp’s failure. Seeing the movie this way felt a lot like riding a roller coaster, and the camaraderie among the audience when the movie was over was not unlike climbing off the coaster train with that vague sense that you’ve all just been through something together.
Anyway, check this out, and imagine 2,000 hysterical people sitting behind you screaming their guts out: