Posts tagged ‘Buster Keaton’
March 16, 2010  |  An Auteurist History of Film
Buster’s Best
The General. 1926. USA. Directed by Buster Keaton, Clyde Bruckman

The General. 1926. USA. Directed by Buster Keaton, Clyde Bruckman

These notes accompany the Buster’s Best program, which screens on March 17, 18, and 19 in Theater 3.

The career of Buster Keaton (1895–1966) is both one of the cinema’s glories and one of its greatest tragedies. If one measures auteurism by a director’s ability to visualize an alternative personal universe on film, then Keaton ranks near the top. Buster’s vision of a world where machinery and Nature perpetually challenge human ingenuity and survival is made credible by his uniquely precise mastery of both the mechanics of his art form and the musculature of his own body—and his establishment of a link between the two. In a sense, he was a bionic man a half-century before Lee Majors.

January 26, 2010  |  An Auteurist History of Film
Buster’s Planet

Sherlock, Jr. 1924. USA. Directed by Buster Keaton

These notes accompany the program Buster’s Planet, which screens on January 27, 28, and 29 in Theater 3.

Joseph Francis “Buster” Keaton (1895–1966) began appearing in his family’s vaudeville act at the age of three. Charles Chaplin made his first stage appearance at five. Psychologists can have—and have had—a field day tracing all kinds of problems to this lack of an ordinary childhood in the cinema’s two greatest comedy stars. The simple fact, perhaps, is that they loved to perform and make people laugh. Buster, whose nickname has been attributed to Harry Houdini, followed in Charlie’s footsteps, entering films in 1917 (four years later than Chaplin) under the tutelage of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle.

December 22, 2009  |  An Auteurist History of Film
Send in the Clowns

These notes accompany the program Send in the Clowns, screening on December 23 and 24 in Theater 3.

While this is intended as a fun holiday program, a few comments might be in order. First, I should acknowledge my personal prejudice against slapstick. I have felt that Charles Chaplin and Buster Keaton rose to the heights of screen comedy by distancing themselves from their Sennett/Normand/Arbuckle roots. I know this hurts colleagues like our estimable pianist Ben Model and other friends, but the philosophy of “anything for a laugh” (evident also in most of Mel Brooks’s work and the early films of Woody Allen) seems incongruous to me, if we are talking about “ART.” I won’t even dignify The Three Stooges or Abbott and Costello (there go my other friends) with a mention. (So kindly disregard that mention.) Seriously, though, I have always sought out some logical structure, character development, or visual invention in determining the worthiness of a film. This doesn’t mean that I am incapable of laughing at silly antics, and I fully acknowledge that some of Keaton’s (The General, Steamboat Bill, Jr.) and Chaplin’s (Monsieur Verdoux, Limelight) greatest works can sometimes be painfully unfunny, but there is an imaginary line in what’s left of my brain that makes me distinguish between entertainment for its own sake and art. However, I don’t wish to rain on your parade or your holiday spirit. If nothing else, this program attempts to establish a lineage that eventually leads to greatness.