Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sherlock, Jr.

Sherlock, Jr.; silent crime comedy short, USA, 1924; D: Buster Keaton, S: Buster Keaton, Kathryn McGuire, Ward Crane, Joe Keaton, Erwin Connelly

A young movie projectionist gives his girlfriend a present, but her jealous wooer set him up and accuses him of stealing a valuable watch. The projectionist follows him, but can't find any evidence to clear his name, so he falls asleep in a cinema and dreams of entering the movie "Hearts and Pearls", becoming Sherlock Jr: there he tries to resolve a kidnapping case and survives an assassination attempt because he can't hit the ball bomb with the number 13 in a pocket billiard. Then he flees from the bad guys on a motorcycle from which the driver fell off and manages, with a lot of luck, to get to his kidnapped girlfriend. They fall in the water with their car and run away... Back in present, the girl discovers her wooer stole the watch and forgives the projectionist.

Shining silent crime comedy "Sherlock Jr." is besides "The General" and "Steamboat" one of the most spectacular movies by Buster Keaton: he features some of the best chase sequences of cinema, the stunts are meticulously planned and executed, while some tricks (Keaton's jumps in the stomach of a passerby and then shows up on the other side of the fence behind him!) are absolutely unbelievable, whereas none of the characters has a name. Even though the beginning is rather slow, this 44 minute movie is filled with genius scenes, like when Keaton "secretly" follows the bad guy by walking only two feet away, just behind him, so both of them stumble upon the same rock and Keaton smokes the cigarette he throws behind him. But the most interesting thing is the story that shows a character entering the movie world, becoming very influential for later metafictional work, from "Rose of Cairo" through "Pleasantville". The sequence where Keaton's ghost "separates" from his body and enters the movie in a cinema, while the background scenes of the film behind him change, is incredibly creative, thus he is one moment on a chair, the other on a road full of cars, on an island, or a desert, until he disappears in the dark with the film's fade out. The long gag where the hero is carelessly sitting on the steering wheel of a motorcycle and didn't notice that the driver behind him fell off a long time ago, so the vehicle is randomly driving through the traffic, breaking desks, picking up people with a rope and passing through a crashing bridge, is howlingly funny and still one of the most brilliant examples of pure humor in the history of cinema.


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