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Posted on 4/20/10 09:46 PM
I have a great affinity towards Buster Keaton. I always have. As a child, it's typical that Charlie Chaplin becomes a more familiar face, his pranks more recognizable as parodied by the Looney Toon troop. But something about the little bug eyed bastard and his hat have just tug at my senses, pulled me in to think as much as enjoy. And it's true. This movie has so much of the schtick and play we come to expect from the classic slapstick artists in its short 44 minute run time that we tend to lose sight of its brilliance. But in a way, Keaton did more than just bring us a few gags, he created arguably one of the first surrealist films, right up there with The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari.
The transition from the projector booth into the screen itself is one of the most effective and amazing comedy spectacles ever put in a movie. It's not necessarily laugh out loud funny, but it's mind blowing that in such an early age of film, they had the aparatus and the stones to do this in a film. Opening up a vault to get to his door, no tangible landscape and reversed identity, this is a strange and thoughtful film that only Keaton could manage. It also has some of those memorable images we see over and over again now (like Keaton following his rival's every step, literally shadowing him).
The story of Keaton imagining himself as the detective and then coming back to reality to reclaim the woman of his dreams is sweet - but the plot and visuals that unfold are master strokes.
Keaton is the best silent comedian. I stand by this and hope films like the The General are also considered - but this is a relatively short feature and more accessible, more funny. I just can't imagine how Keaton came up with all of this, having directed and performed in it.
This is a film about film. It might not necessarily argue for the ontology (the very nature) of film or give us any insights, but it does exploit as much as it can from the medium and gives us all the dirty details in between.