Archive for Sherlock Jnr

The Mothering Sunday Intertitle

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2015 by dcairns

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A gentle reminder that the Hippodrome Silent Film Festival will be raging this week in Bo’ness. Among the treats in store is Buster Keaton’s THE NAVIGATOR (screening Saturday), accompanied by maestro Neil Brand upon the piano forte. I hope to be on hand to experience and write about as much of the festivities as possible.

I rate THE NAVIGATOR pretty near the top — not as dazzling as SHERLOCK JNR or as plain great as THE GENERAL, but I like how Kathryn McGuire gets to be almost an equal partner in the slapstick. Her character is exactly as helpless as Buster’s, not more helpless in THE GENERAL (“almost aggressively stupid” was Richard Lester’s affectionate description of Marion Mack’s character) or simply competent and attractive as in THE CAMERAMAN.

I’m not going to try to arrange Keaton’s films in definitive order on a Sunday morning, but I would roughly say that the first rank, for me, contains ~

THE GENERAL, SHERLOCK JNR., THE NAVIGATOR, OUR HOSPITALITY

The middle group, which are not to be sneezed at, would be ~

STEAMBOAT BILL JNR, GO WEST, SEVEN CHANCES, THE THREE AGES, THE CAMERAMAN

And the “lesser films” — ones which are still likely to be better than anything else you might see, would be ~

COLLEGE, BATTLING BUTLER, SPITE MARRIAGE

I realize that this is both subjective and impertinent, and that any attempt to say that SEVEN CHANCES or STEAMBOAT BILL JNR is less than great is likely to look philistine. All I mean to say is that they are LESS great than my top four. But I welcome disputes, if you want to make the case for a lower-down title or knock down one of my pantheon. I will say that I’ve only seen BATTLING BUTLER and SPITE MARRIAGE once, and that it’s been a while since I saw THE CAMERAMAN and THE THREE AGES.

We might also attempt a larger project, a ranking of the short films

The Sunday Intertitle / Congruence 3

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on October 4, 2009 by dcairns

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I had a pretty good time delivering my first lecture of the year at Edinburgh College of Art on Monday (on the history and uses of the long take), and then a really good time screening silent comedies on Tuesday evening — Chaplin’s A DOG’S LIFE, Harold Lloyd in FROM HAND TO MOUTH, and Keaton’s SHERLOCK JNR. Enthusiastic responses from students, some of whom had seen plenty of silent-era slapstick, some of whom I think had seen none. All pronounced themselves Keatonites at the end, barring one Chaplinist (who had seen several other films so had more to base her choice on). I only asked for a show of hands because I was curious, having previously advised that they shouldn’t feel that they can only like one.

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The three films fit together well, because they’re all fairly short without being tiny, and because you can see how all the silent clowns borrowed from each other (well, I’m not sure how much Chaplin borrowed…)

The Lloyd film (which crams three hours of plot and business into 25 mins) gave him dog and kid companions and cast him as a down-and-out, a la Chaplin, and the Keaton featured a close-following scene very similar to the one in FROM HAND TO MOUTH. Of course, SHERLOCK JNR is such a surprising, peculiar and downright avant-garde comedy that even if moments owe their existence to the work of other comics, the film as a whole is sui generis. And its principle descendant is Samuel Beckett’s Act Without Words.

(First, Buster literally breaks his neck falling onto railway tracks, then he climbs inside a motion picture…)

Anyway, it was a pleasure to share these eighty and ninety-year-old movies with a decent-sized audience, some of whose laughter had the delight of surprise in it — and the spontaneous applause was good too.

Work in Progress

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2009 by dcairns

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OK, here’s a provisional list — tear it apart or question it or whatever. Be great to have your thoughts. Apologies to all those whose ideas I didn’t use, but please believe that you inspired or clarified my own thoughts.

1) Monday 29th September.

Silent comedies: Buster Keaton’s SHERLOCK JNR plus a few shorts.

2) Monday 6th October.

Silent drama: Victor Sjostrom’s HE WHO GETS SLAPPED.

3) Monday 13th October.

Early talking pre-code cinema: Gregory LaCava’s BED OF ROSES and Mervyn LeRoy’s THREE ON A MATCH

4) Monday 20th October

The Classical era: Powell and Pressburger’s A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH

5) Tuesday 3rd November

Studio experimentation: Charles Laughton’s NIGHT OF THE HUNTER

6) Tuesday 10th November

Post-war “realism”: Stanley Kubrick’s PATHS OF GLORY

7) Tuesday 17th November

Sixties experimentation: Luis Bunuel’s SIMON OF THE DESERT and Lindsay Anderson’s THE WHITE BUS

8) Tuesday 24th November

Bernardo Bertolucci’s THE CONFORMIST

9) Tuesday 1st December

New Hollywood: Peter Bogdanovich’s PAPER MOON

10) Tuesday 8th December

The world: Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s A MOMENT OF INNOCENCE

11) Tuesday 15th December

Seasonal treat: Billy Wilder’s THE APARTMENT

I’m going to watch a bunch of the films you all suggested which I haven’t seen, probably starting with Johnny To’s THE MISSION and carrying on with Makhmalbaf’s ONCE UPON A TIME…CINEMA.

And, yeah, I’m definitely going to have second thoughts in the morning, so let me know what you think I should change.

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