I love Buster Keaton–nearly 100 years on, his movies are still some of the most amazing, hilarious, creative, and wild ones out there.
Earlier this year, I showed my family his little masterpiece Sherlock Jr. At only 45 minutes, it didn’t strain anyone’s attention span, nor did the lack of dialogue confuse even the youngest kids.
The jokes, the stunts, and a very early bit of meta-commentary on film itself make this one of my favorite movies. The kids, too, have asked to see it again since then. Enjoy!
Here’s a great analysis of Keaton’s work and legacy:
This video has the Babylon segments of D.W. Griffith’s 1916 silent film epic Intolerance. The entire 3-hour film rotates between four stories in different historical periods, and while each of the four has its charms, the Babylonian story is by far the best. As this classic of cinema celebrates its 100th anniversary, here is that story, complete and by itself.
Saw this film recently: provocative propaganda, with this scene as the most moving. For an 87 year-old movie, it’s remarkably frank in its depiction of violence. No modern movie would show the baby carriage keeling over like that.
Here’s a cute 1927 silent film by the same German director who made Nosferatu. In it, a young country couple are torn apart as the husband is seduced by a woman from the city, who convinces him to kill his wife. The young man can’t quite do it, however, and the film traces the path the estranged spouses take to fall in love again.
Now, this is all fine and good but, despite the film’s undeniable quality, it bothered me and I didn’t buy the story. This is a romance where a young husband spends the film shyly winning over the heart of his beloved again…after he comes within moments of murdering her with his bare hands. Is nobody else turned off by this?
Look, I can understand a woman wanting to give her family a second chance, but if a guy is only inches away from strangling you and throwing your body in a lake, I’ve got to think that it’s a deal breaker. Any subsequent tomfoolery and lighthearted twitterpation is going to ring a little hollow.
But if you can get past that, it is a cute movie–the girl looks like Drew Barrymore and there’s a scene where the couple rekindles their affection by watching someone else’s wedding, which reminded me of a similar scene in Independence Day.
But, really, the breezy dismissal of some pretty serious domestic violence here kind of weirded me out.
A project I’m doing this year has required me to watch a lot of old silent movies. I’ve seen a few Charlie Chaplin movies, as well as two D.W. Griffith epics, and a few others. They’ve all been worthwhile, but there’s no problem picking the one I’ve most enjoyed.
Buster Keaton’s 1927 film The General is a silent film in black and white, and is one of the funniest, most action-packed movies I’ve ever seen. I loved every minute of it. It’s brilliantly fun.
The majority of the film takes place while one train chases another, and then the hunter from the first half becomes the hunted later on. Buster Keaton performs almost constant slapstick, always with a quiet, deadpan demeanor, and performs more dangerous stunts than I could count. Since there are no stuntmen or special effects to speak of, I actually had to remind myself that the many stunning visuals in the film were achieved by actually doing them on camera. Keaton could have died multiple times while pulling off these stunts and jokes. (Jackie Chan has always said that Buster Keaton was a huge inspiration in his own career.)
This version on YouTube (the movie’s in the public domain) has a jazz soundtrack added, from a German band which apparently often performed along with this film (you know, like The Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon). It perfectly complements the action. You’re in for a real treat.