It’s been my experience that the classic movie figure to whom small children respond most immediately is not Buster, Groucho, or Betty Boop but Charlie Chaplin. Perhaps his genius truly is universal, or maybe we’re just hardwired to laugh at a herky-jerky little guy with big shoes and a smudgy mustache, particularly in 15-minute destruction fetes. Adults (or, at least, critics) more often prefer the feature-length City Lights (1931), which happens to be Film Forum’s Christmas Week attraction. I’ve got no beef with anyone who considers this Chaplin’s masterpiece—it’s certainly the movie most suffused with economic and romantic pathos. James Agee called the exchange of looks that end the movie (the formerly blind girl discovering her patron’s real identity), “enough to shrivel the heart to see . . . the greatest piece of acting and the highest moment in movies.” And, as any six-year-old can see, it’s also very, very funny. December 25 through January 1, Film Forum.
Other seasonal offerings:
The Museum of the Moving Image has its second weekend of Disney’s Silly Symphonies and other fabulous color cartoons from the 1930s. The tunes are occasionally cloying but both the background and character animation can be astonishing. Through December 30, MOMI.
The Walter Reade is devoting the last five days of 2007 and the first of 2008 to (mainly studio) prints of Bob Fosse films in All That Fosse. The rarest and most tuneful (and kid-friendly) of the lot is the Fosse-choreographed 1957 adaptation of what Godard called a “left-wing operetta,” The Pajama Game. December 28 through January 1, Walter Reade Theater.