(1928) dir. Edward Sedgwick, Buster Keaton
Buster Keaton. The whole house of kids cheers for Buster Keaton!
The Cameraman was our latest foray into the world of Buster Keaton, though we are looking forward to the Valentine’s Day showing of Our Hospitality (1923) at the Castro Theatre. The kids totally dig Buster. And this movie did not disappoint. The Cameraman is considered Keaton at his best, though it was the first of the films that he made at MGM, a move that would ultimately stifle his creativity and artistic control. But this film has great pluck and aplomb, and even a monkey (the kids LOVED the monkey).
The story has Keaton as a tintype photographer, falling in love with a beautiful clerk who works in the newsreel office at MGM. Inspired by her, he strives to learn the process of shooting film, capturing action, and getting both the job and the girl. Within the photographic process, cranking the handle of the camera, Keaton learns the hard way about double-exposures and shooting both backwards and forward. I believe that the self-reflexivity regarding the filmmaking process to be played out here is charming itself.
Along the way, Keaton gets involved in shooting a Tong War that breaks out at a Chinese New Year parade, with lots of guns and knives and other action. Keaton also ends up adopting an organ grinder’s monkey who he accidentally “kills” and is forced to purchase. The monkey ends up saving the day by photographing the dramatic moment when Keaton saves the girl from drowning. There is also another great sequence in a swimming pool.
One thing that is interesting, after watching a bunch of Keaton and Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle films with the kids a couple of weeks ago, is the New York setting for the action. Using Coney Island, Manhattan, and other locations certainly adds to the picture. One of the best scenes in the movie is when Keaton runs across several blocks of Manhattan to see his girl on their first date.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It’s been such a blast watching these films with the kids and their enjoyment of Keaton and silent film has been absolutely pure, unadulterated pleasure. I, myself, am thoroughly enjoying the films, but watching them with the kids is just something far more wonderful. Their bursts of laughter, their total excitement. It’s more than palpable. It’s totally infectious. And Keaton is king!