Tuesday Editor’s Pick: Seven Chances (1925)

by on April 11, 2012Posted in: Editor's Pick


Playing Sun April 15 at 12:30 and Tue April 17 at 7:45 at Nitehawk Cinema [Program & Tix]
*Live musical accompaniment by Hayes Greenfield, Todd Turkisher, & Paul Socolow
 
Nitehawk continues their noble enterprise of monthly silent film offerings with eclectic live musical accompaniment. See their site for bios on the musicians. The Keaton short “One Week” will screen before the feature. You can read Alt Screen’s general overview of Keaton here.
 

Their trailer for the event:

 
Tom Milne for Time Out (London):

A dazzlingly balletic comedy in which Buster has a matter of hours to acquire the wife on which a seven million dollar inheritance depends. Having insulted his sweetheart by explaining the necessity of marriage, been turned down by seven possible candidates at the country club, and (in a series of innocently inept gags) found his path beset by uglies, blacks or female impersonators, he advertises – only to find a horde of applicants besieging the church. From this leisurely start, the film takes off into a fantastically elaborate, gloriously inventive chase sequence, in which Buster escapes the mob of pursuing harridans only to find an escalating avalanche of rocks taking over at his heels as he hurtles downhill. Added only after an initial preview, the rocks make for one of the great Keaton action gags.

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Monday Editor’s Pick: The Cameraman (1928)

by on December 19, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick


Playing Mon Dec 26 at 8:00* at Film Forum [Program & Tix]
*Live piano accompaniment by Steve Sterner
 
Film Forum’s “The Silent Roar: MGM 19-24-29” series continues Monday evenings thru February 6.
 
Don’t miss the chance to see this film projected in a public theater. The clockwork intricacy of Keaton’s long-shot set-pieces can only be appreciated on the big screen. And while comedy, as a rule, rises and falls on the strength of audience participation (laughter being like yawning, only more so), silent comedy is particularly dependent on the live orchestration of a convulsively laughing and thoroughly gut-busted theater crowd… And there’s a monkey!
 

Imogen Smith in her series overview for Alt Screen:

Keaton made a valentine to the machine he loved in 1928′s The Cameraman, his first film at MGM — after his producer, Joseph Schenck, dissolved his independent studio and sold his contract — and his last masterpiece. He plays a street tintypist who buys a beat-up movie camera and struggles to become a newsreel photographer, all in the hopes of impressing a pretty secretary (Marceline Day). In this role Keaton obeys the dictate of the Soviet avant-gardist Dziga Vertov: “The man with the camera…must exert his powers of observation, quickness and agility to the utmost to keep pace with life’s fleeting phenomena.” Like all of Keaton’s silent films, The Cameraman is a watchmaker’s ballet, revealing timing as not only the essence of comedy, but the expression of inner grace.
 
When cameras were muffled to shoot talkies, Keaton said he missed the rhythmic grinding of the crank, which he had used as a metronome. (His rhythm is also in the cutting of his films, which Keaton did himself.) As he scrambles down the stairs of his boarding house, or trudges dejectedly back up, all of his soul is in the pace of his feet and the angle of his body. His meticulously choreographed actions are enhanced by the way the camera follows him up and down on the specially-built cutaway set: gesture, staging and cinematography work in three-part harmony to create the scene and get the laugh. A phone call releases him into an ecstatic, arrow-in-flight sprint through the streets of Manhattan, bringing him to his girl’s doorstep before she’s hung up the receiver. Silent film allowed time to be elastic, subordinate to Keaton’s own timing. The absence of sound made pratfalls look weightless, and enabled crystalline refinements of slapstick, as in the film’s famous changing-room scene, a precise pas de deux of mounting chaos and frustration. With sound, physical comedy became the “dumb” brother of smart talk, but silent comedians like Keaton display intelligence in action.

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Saturday Editor’s Pick: The General (1926)

by on December 5, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick


Playing Sat Dec 10 at 3:00 at Anthology Film Archives [Program & Tix]

 

Make sure to read Imogen Smith’s terrific piece on MGM late silents, in which she discusses Keaton, here.

 

Gary Giddins for Slate:

The General is a peephole into history and by any definition an uncannily beautiful film. Indeed, for a first-time viewer, I would emphasize the beauty over the comedy. Many people are disappointed when they first see The General because they have heard that it is one of the funniest movies ever made. It isn’t. Keaton made many films that are tours de force of hilarity, including Sherlock Jr., The Navigator, and Seven Chances (all available from Kino). The General is something else, a historical parody set during the Civil War.

 
The comedy is rich but deliberate and insinuating. It aims not to split your sides but rather to elicit and sustain—for 78 minutes—a smile and sense of wonder, interrupted by several perfectly timed guffaws. The General belongs to at least three movie genres: comedy, historical, and chase. Most of it is constructed around a pursuit as relentless as any Bourne blowout, involving a Confederate locomotive, called the General, hijacked by Union spies.

 
In Keaton’s hands, the train is nothing more than a gigantic prop, an incessant inspiration to his inventive genius. Many passages are so suspenseful and minutely worked out that the gag, when it comes, is like the release of the General’s steam. It gives you a chance to breathe again.

 
The more comprehensive material on Keaton’s career, from a precvious round-up on The Cameraman, re-posted below. (Yes, we’ve been struggling to catch up after the Thanksgiving holiday.)

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“The Silent Roar” at Film Forum (thru Feb 06)

by on November 28, 2011Posted in: Essay

 
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Buster Keaton’s “Our Hospitality” (1923) at Film Forum (Aug 01)

by on August 1, 2011Posted in: Essay

Buster Keaton Our Hospitality 1932

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Monday Editor’s Pick: The Navigator (1924)

by on July 18, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick

Mon July 18 at 7:15 at Film Forum [Program & Tix]

*With short NEIGHBORS (1920)

**Live piano accompaniment

 

Buster Keaton’s 1924 comedy The Navigator comes to Film Forum tonight as part of their series “The Best of Buster Keaton.” For our extended coverage of Buster click here.

 

Here’s Dave Kehr giving a nice summary of the film for The Chicago Reader:

Buster Keaton’s 1924 film is about a rich young couple, who have never needed to look out for themselves, cast adrift on a deserted ocean liner. The ordinary difficulties of existence are magnified by the fact that all the facilities are intended not for individual needs but to cater to a thousand people. The situation is perfectly suited to Keaton’s natural sense of surrealism—everything is too big, too full, and too much. Keaton and his girlfriend (Kathryn McGuire) become two innocents lost in a threatening, mechanistic Eden, alone in their oversized world. A masterpiece, and very, very funny.

 

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Monday Editor’s Pick: “Spite Marriage” (1929)

by on June 27, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick

Playing Mon June 27 at 7:00 at Film Forum [Program & Tix]

*Live piano accompaniment. **Screening with Keaton’s 1920 two-reeler, “Convict 13”

 

Buster Mondays continue at Film Forum today through August 8th. Since every screening has so far sold out, we recommend you buy your tickets in advance and get in line early. Its worth it.

 

Our more general round-up of Buster Keaton criticism is here.

 

Time Out (London) on today’s feature Spite Marriage:

Keaton’s last silent feature takes the classic Keaton form: an incompetent discovers a growing sense of confidence and physical ingenuity, overcomes the villains, and wins the girl. Part of the plot harks back to The Navigator, but three of the sequences (a play ruined by Buster’s gaucheness, getting a drunk bride to bed, and an extraordinary shipboard fight) put the film up in Division One, crowning a decade of unparalleled creativity which was then stifled by studio inflexibility.

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Monday Editor’s Pick: “Sherlock Jr.” (1924)

by on June 19, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick

Playing Mon June 20 at 7:45 at Film Forum [Program & Tix]
*Live piano accompaniment. **Screening with Keaton’s 1921 two-reeler, “The Boat.”

 

Buster Mondays continue at Film Forum today through August 8th. Since every screening has so far sold out, we recommend you buy your tickets in advance and get in line early. Its worth it. 
 
Our more general round-up of Buster Keaton criticism is here. Info on Sherlock Jr. below.

 

Dave Kehr sums up one of Keaton’s finest and funniest for the Chicago Reader:

This 1924 comedy finds Buster Keaton anticipating most of the American avant-garde of the 70s: he plays a projectionist who falls asleep during the showing of a detective thriller and projects himself into the action. Keaton’s appreciation of the formal paradoxes of the medium is astounding; his observations on the relationship between film and the subconscious are groundbreaking and profound. And it’s a laugh riot, too.

 

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Monday Editor’s Pick: “College” (1927)

by on June 13, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick

Playing Mon June 13 at 6:30 at Film Forum [Program & Tix]

 

Film Forum’s Keaton series continues with the delightful College, playing along with his 1921 short, The Goat. You can find a more general round-up of articles and essays on Keaton here.

 

From the Time Out Film Guide:

Minor Keaton but major almost any other comedian, and notably better than Harold Lloyd’s The Freshman, whose plot it borrows, with bookworm Buster trying to prove himself a jock to win the girl. There is a marvellous sequence in which he apes – perfectly but disastrously – the tricks of a veteran soda-jerk; an even better one in which he attempts a decathlon of sporting events, but knocks down every single hurdle with metronomic precision, is thrown by the hammer instead of the other way round, etc. Rarely was Keaton’s grace and athletic skill demonstrated so clearly, even if he (understandably) had to get a double to perform the great pole vault through a window to rescue the heroine from assault by her jock admirer.

 

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Monday Editor’s Pick: “The General” (1926)

by on May 30, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick


Playing at 7:30 at Film Forum [Program & Tix]
 
Gary Giddins for Slate:

The General is a peephole into history and by any definition an uncannily beautiful film. Indeed, for a first-time viewer, I would emphasize the beauty over the comedy. Many people are disappointed when they first see The General because they have heard that it is one of the funniest movies ever made. It isn’t. Keaton made many films that are tours de force of hilarity, including Sherlock Jr., The Navigator, and Seven Chances (all available from Kino). The General is something else, a historical parody set during the Civil War.
 

The comedy is rich but deliberate and insinuating. It aims not to split your sides but rather to elicit and sustain—for 78 minutes—a smile and sense of wonder, interrupted by several perfectly timed guffaws. The General belongs to at least three movie genres: comedy, historical, and chase. Most of it is constructed around a pursuit as relentless as any Bourne blowout, involving a Confederate locomotive, called the General, hijacked by Union spies.
[…]
In Keaton’s hands, the train is nothing more than a gigantic prop, an incessant inspiration to his inventive genius. Many passages are so suspenseful and minutely worked out that the gag, when it comes, is like the release of the General’s steam. It gives you a chance to breathe again.

 
The more comprehensive material on Keaton’s career, from last week’s round-up on The Cameraman, re-posted below. (Yes, I am enjoying the long weekend.)
 
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12 weeks of Buster Keaton comedies kick off today with Monday Editor’s Pick: “The Cameraman” (1928)

by on May 23, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick


Playing Mon May 23 at 7:30 at Film Forum [Program & Tix]
 
Film Forum’s “Best of Buster” retro starts today with The Cameraman, and continues with a one-time screening of classic Keaton comedies (The General, The Navigator, Sherlock Jr., et al.) every Monday evening for the next 12 weeks.
 
Don’t miss the chance to see these films projected in a public theater. The clockwork intricacy of Keaton’s long-shot set-pieces can only be appreciated on the big screen. And while comedy, as a rule, rises and falls on the strength of audience participation (laughter being like yawning, only more so), silent comedy is particularly dependent on the live orchestration of a convulsively laughing and thoroughly gut-busted theater crowd.
 

Read More

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