Friday, October 31, 2008

More on Buster Keaton

"Steamboat Bill, Jr. was his last really fine feature. His face is older and sadder, but he still exhibits humid romanticism, sniffing a girl's hair as if in a trance. The gags play with expectations and build suspense; in one perfect moment, though knocked out and stuffed upside down in a car, Buster still manages to cross his legs jauntily.

These last few films are the most refined expression of his art, unafraid to draw out situations to the point of, and even past, tedium. They are something like Beethoven's last string quartets: heaven for the specialist, alienating for the casual viewer..."

"...In many ways, Buster was the Godard of the twenties, the Rossellini of slapstick—he needed to improvise. He was unable to come up with a cut-and-dried script—that just wasn't the way he worked...."

"...Like Chaplin, he had a native gift for movement, but, unlike the Little Tramp, he had very modern instincts that propelled him far ahead of any of his contemporaries. For so long, he was thought of as just a forgotten pie-thrower with stone face and porkpie hat. Today he is revered for that stream of pure movies from the twenties, a sequence of work that has improved with age and speaks to us all from the viewpoint of an artist who is both burned and purified, numb and serene, hopeful but cynical..."

From a profile by Dan Callahan on Senses of Cinema:

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