The Sunday Intertitle: Buster’s Shorts

Poster - Hard Luck (1921)_01

OK to announce my big Buster Keaton project now — wonder-editor Timo Langer and I have created a video essay to accompany Masters of Cinema’s new Blu-ray release of the complete Buster Keaton short films — now more complete than ever with longer alternate cuts of MY WIFE’S RELATIONS, THE BLACKSMITH and CONEY ISLAND. It was fun to make this one — though hard to decide whether to go for history/biography, critical or some combination. My big idea was to cut together the films in such a way as to create long sequences of continuous movement — Buster flies off screen left in NEIGHBORS and enters screening right, in a different costume, in COPS. And so on. Every silent comedy doc used to have a fast-and-furious montage of Keystone chases, spliced up into abstract gibberish and much more exciting than the films themselves. This was an attempt to do a variation on that idea, emphasising Buster’s tendency to use himself as a projectile…

The only downside to all this is that Keaton’s short film oeuvre, which once seemed inexhaustible and limitless, is now behind me, watched. I can watch it all again, of course, and I will, But you can only watch something for the first time once, as my friend Travis recently observed. One of the nicest discoveries on this viewing was THE HAUNTED HOUSE, which features numerous instances of Keaton’s Nightmare Mode, one of the subjects of my video essay…

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Buy it here and help a brother out.

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4 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: Buster’s Shorts”

  1. DBenson Says:

    For some reason I keep remembering the ghosts padding around Buster in the hallway. There’s something very Keatonesque about how they move, perambulating from door to door full of intent and not interested in being ghostly.

  2. The fact that he is eventually able to fall into traffic cop mode and direct them on their way kind of hammers home their strange lack of agency.

  3. James S Says:

    You can only watch something for the first time once, but if you leave something unmatched for too long you may never watch it.

    That’s the Compulsive film watcher’s dilemma.: To be one of those tired people who has seen it all, or to die with list of films saved for rainy days

  4. I’ve come to believe there’s no virtue in saving things to be watched later, but of course there are only so many films one CAN watch. If I believed in resolutions or HAD any resolution I would be prioritizing my viewing along stricter quality lines, rather than watching Shinya Tsukamoto’s Nightmare Detective series — which I am about to do.

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