Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Buster Keaton The Complete Short Films

Having watched works of Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd, and read documentaries about them, I knew that I had to watch works of Buster Keaton. I then saw one of his work, Seven Chances. Seven Chances was not as funny as I had expected, the first part of the movie was slow; but I enjoyed the wonderful stunts. I was not very eager to get this complete short films box-set, as I was not that crazy about Seven Chances; but I bought it anyway. I knew I would enjoy the box-set more than today's comedies.

What I didn't know, is that Buster Keaton worked with Roscoe Arbuckle in his early career. The first movies in the box-set (total 32 movies) are his collaboration with Roscoe Arbuckle and Al St John. These movies are funny and enjoyable, although they often lose focus of the plot. I love how Arbuckle threw his knife up to the air and it landed smoothly on the table. My 8 year-old niece, who loves to cook and helps her mother in our warong, enjoyed watching The Cook very much; how Arbuckle threw what he was cooking in the air and caught it again with the saucepan, and how he threw what the guests ordered and how Keaton caught it smoothly. However I told her not to practice what she had seen there. Luke the dog, who could climb ladder, amazed us.

Apart from The Cook, my personal favourite is One Week; which shows 7 first days in Buster Keaton's character's marriage. The new couple built a portable house, which didn't work well due to a sabotage by the bride's rejected lover. I like the idea of portraying a failure in building a portable house.

Compared to Charlie Chaplin & Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton's stunts are as dangerous and wonderful as Harold Lloyd, if not better. Now I know what people mean by precision when they talk about Buster Keaton. The stunts did need precision indeed. About Charlie Chaplin, although stunts in his movies were not as brave as Keaton & Lloyd, but characterization is stronger.

The box-set from Masters of Cinema contains a nice book of 184 pages with many photographs, full of discussion on Buster Keaton. I am a bit disappointed with the quality of the movies, though. I have bought DVDs from Masters of Cinema before and they are of excellent quality. And if it's a case of old movies, my Chaplin DVDs from BFI and Harold Lloyd from Studio Canal are in much better quality. It's a pity that Keaton's works have not been preserved very well. Was it because he didn't produce his own movies?

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