dir. buster keaton
For a long time now, Sherlock, Jr. has been my favorite film from the silent era. Its comedy is simple, its visual gags are complex, and Buster Keaton is full-on genius mode when he brings the two together. As director and star, he pushes his body to limits far exceeding most modern-day comedians, and while the jokes might not be side-splitting, they are definitely entertaining.
Keaton plays a young film projectionist, who is also studying to be a detective. He gets caught up in a theft, and must work to prove his innocence and win back his girl. The majority of the second half takes place in a dream sequence; a “film within a film” that is unlike anything I’ve seen from this era of filmmaking. The technicality involved with this sequence in particular is stunning–equally as stunning as the stunts Keaton performs. This precision is yet another example in my mind of directors realizing film’s potential, and taking full advantage of it.
Keaton was perhaps the king of deadpan comedy, though he still maintains a strange kindness and warmth that makes this a great feel-good film. If you want a great introduction to silent comedy (or silent cinema, for that matter), look no further.
Available to watch in high definition via YouTube.