Friday, August 5, 2011

The Silent Magic of Sherlock Jr.

Last week, after a long day at work and a strenuous workout (due to the fact that it was my first in eons), I decided to take the advice of a magazine doctor, whose article I once read while in Sleepy's. He said that, in order to have a good night's rest, I should tell my body to calm down by drinking tea and and watching a movie to relax. Sounded good to be, so I got some tea and combed through Netflix. I came upon Buster Keaton's 1924 masterpiece Sherlock Jr.

I didn't know what to expect, because even being the cinephile that I am, I sometimes find silent films tedious. And, before this, my only Buster Keaton experience was Johnny Depp's impression in Benny and Joon. But this was fantastic! It was understated, sweet, and seriously funny.

I very much enjoyed Buster Keaton. His comedy can definitely be described at slapstick, but he makes it more than that. The jokes in the film, physical and otherwise, seemed smooth and natural, like dominoes, each action setting off the next in perfect time.

In the film, Keaton's character falls asleep and slips into a dream world. The sequence in which he is first in the dream is cinematic magic, the way cinematic magic was meant to be. Keaton double exposes the film to make a ghostlike version of himself climb out of his sleeping body. Today, we would do it with a computer without thinking twice. Then, he walks into the movie theater (he is a projectionist) and steps into the screen to interact with the characters. It's funny, beautiful and clever. In a world where entire films are made using green screens, this was a refreshing reminder of the pioneers of this industry we all hold dear.

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