Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Sherlock Jr. [1924]

Sherlock Jr. was a hilarious physical comedy alright, but more importantly, it was an astounding reflection on the medium of cinema itself, with all its illusions and artificialities. It starts with Keaton as a movie projectionist, an aspiring detective, and in love with a girl, only to be falsely framed by the film’s villain. Though decidedly funny till now, this is the point where the movie jumped to a different level altogether. Sad and heartbroken he falls asleep while projecting a film, and in his dream, he finds the movie’s characters replaced by the girl and the villain, and he, now an accomplished sleuth, enters into the movie by seamlessly blurring the ‘fourth wall’. Armed with skills, resourcefulness and infinite luck, he is now invincible, and through one deliberately impossible move after another, he beats the bad guys and wins the girl. The movie comprised of a host of incredibly dangerous stunts – he even broke his neck (albeit, not fatally) during one such stunt! It was also filled with brilliant slapstick comedy, deadpan humour, wit, and ironies, making it a laugh-riot. However, what spectacularly stood out was one breathtaking montage that was jaw-dropping in its ideation and execution – as he enters into the screen, with the bemused audience watching on (making the self-consciousness of the situation blatantly obvious), he suddenly finds himself at the mercy of a series of rapid cuts accompanied by drastic changes of locations. Such audacious yet loving techno-philosophical subversion of the medium has rarely, if ever, been achieved in the history of this artform. And yes, one must also watch the movie to realize what a terrific pool player he was.

Director: Buster Keaton
Genre: Comedy/Slapstick/Fantasy/Silent Film
Language: English
Country: US


Anonymous said...

Great film, my second favourite Keaton right behind The General. What other Keatons have you seen? Is this your favourite by him?

Shubhajit said...

The General is the only other Keaton that I've seen so far (I'm not counting Limelight here as he had only a small supporting part in that). I'd personally place the two on par, despite this being a short - maybe not in terms of sheer comic or anarchist value, but surely on the merit of that incredible sequence of rapid cuts when he enters into the movie.

By the way, do share your name.

Sam Juliano said...

Great capsule review of one of the silent era's most celebrated comedies by a silent clown genius. Many unforgettable moments, my own favorite being the pool game. This was the inspiration for Woody Allen's PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO.

Shubhajit said...

Yes, the pool game was hilarious. Buster Keaton might just have easily built a career in that game, had he decided not to enter the movie business! And yeah, this does remain as an inpiration to Woody's much loved Purple Rose of Cairo - thanks for pointing that out.