Last week was difficult in more ways than one might imagine for me. On the one hand, I was working on the long story about Suzy. On the other, my new job, requiring wit and accuracy in the identification and writeup of breaking news items for Cinescape.
On the other other hand, I was surrounded by things that made me laugh out loud. A lot. Maybe media programmers were responding to the national wave of rumination on our lost ones? Who can say.
The highlight of this for me was last Monday night’s showing, at the Paramount, of Buster Keaton’s 1928 film, “The Cameraman”. That’s a tiny gif up there, which is taken from nearly the closing scene in the film, in which….
is seen to operate a fiilm camera.
Keaton’s character acquires the monkey by tripping over it and apparently killing it as he (a newsreel photographer) ruses to cover a gang war he’s gotten a tip about.
I believe this supports Ken’s contention wherebay the secret of true comedy is to make people laugh; and then, you add a monkey. Note Friends’ Emmy of last night.
But this is about “The Cameraman”, which is without a doubt, the funniest movie I have ever seen, and I think I can state it should be very seriously considered as the funniest film ever made. I have always enjoyed Keaton’s work, but I was astonished, staggered, by the pace and delicate timing of the gags. In some scnes, it was as if one was watching a from of music in which the conductor was Keatin and the orchestra was the astonished gasps, shouts, howls, and horsewhinnies that echoe en masse through the house.
In one scene that I recall in particular, for a full minute, gags were deliverd by Keaton’s body movements (struggling with his cumbersome camera near a doorway) as a rate which appeared to be greaer than one per second; it was, literally, unbelieveable. After ten seconds, it became something new, almost a religious experience, becasue one’s expectations were so systematically challenged, raised, and undercut that one had the sensation that one had lost control of one’s mind.
This site (in french) has an attempt to describe great hunks of the film, accompanied by stills:
the new camera. Scroll down to get the idea; click the little blue cameras at the bottom of each sequence to load the next one.
The site above is staggering in its’ depth. Yet it’s still being built. What a movie.
Of course, no celebration of Keaton’s genius would be complete without a visit to the Buster Keaton Society, the Damfinos.