Quick Change Artist

There are a number of good bits in LE ROI DES CHAMPS-ELYSEES, the film Buster Keaton made in France after his MGM contract was cancelled. Keaton was dismissive of the film, made at a low ebb, but he’s good in it, and while the plot is a string of loosely-connected rubbish, Keaton gets to produce visual gags in just about every scene he’s in, a pleasing contrast to the sentiment and verbiage of the MGM talkies.

In the above sequence, two Keatons meet in a revolving door. Buster, an actor playing a convict, has been mistaken for a real American gangster who just busted out of the French Sing-Sing (Chant-Chant? Sounds so much nicer!). Here, the bad Keaton arrives and enters his lair via a concealed panel, causing good Keaton, who was leaning against the wall inside, to exit. What’s impressive and delightful is that the transition is done without special effects or jump cuts — Keaton enters, ducks around the door during the second when he’s off-camera, and re-enters playing his other character.

I’ll have more to say about this minor but somewhat enjoyable thing when I get done flying the Atlantic.

5 Responses to “Quick Change Artist”

  1. It strikes me that Keaton was dismissive of lousy or outdated storytelling, no matter how the film turned out. He was similarly severe with Seven Chances, the plot of which was really a moth-eaten contrivance back in the twenties (that Belasco credit is really a dead giveaway of what Keaton thought of the story). I look forward to see Le Roi De Champs-Elysees to make my own mind up.

  2. That’s not so embarrassing… not compared to his whole presidency.

  3. Indeed. But it shows that he would have been a great punching bag for The Three Stooges.

  4. […] SHADOWPLAY Quick Change Artist […]

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