Wednesday 23 June 2010

The General [1927]

Along with Gold Rush, The General forms one of the greatest silent screen comedies. However, where the former painted a devastatingly acerbic picture of heartbreak and suffering, the latter, set against the turbulent times of the American Civil War, is an example of wholesome fun and undiluted entertainment. And in Buster Keaton, one of the giants of the medium, with his deadpan, expressionless face, we have here the perfect archetype of a common man who ends up doing some spectacularly uncommon deeds. Keaton stars here as Johnnie Gray, a railroad engineer, who has only two loves in his life – the locomotive he drives and the lady he loves. However, when he is refused to be enlisted during the war, his sweetheart turns her back on him. Fortunately for him, he gets to redeem himself before her eyes, and in what glorious fashion, when both his locomotive gets stolen and his lady gets hijacked. Set against a pulsating soundtrack, the film abounds in a series of remarkable and hilarious sight gags and two unforgettable train-chase sequences that are part of cinematic folklore. Interestingly, Keaton performed all the stunts himself, including some decidedly dangerous ones, as he did in all his films. Despite the advent of sound and technology, the film still remains one of the most ingenuous and exciting comedy and adventure films ever made.

Directors: Clyde Bruckman & Buster Keaton
Genre: Comedy/Slapstick Comedy/Adventure
Language: Silent
Country: US


Sam Juliano said...

It's a timeless classic, and one of the greatest films of all-time in any genre, not to mention it's a personal favorite. The stone-faced silent clown brilliantly orchestrated the film's gags, and the pacing is pitch perfect. When we speak of greatness, we need not go beyond this work of art. As you say it's 'ingenious.'

Wonderful capsule here!

Shubhajit said...

Thanks Sam. Yes, its greatness is palpable in every gag that was orchestrated, and its historical importance for the medium is incalculable. Buster Keaton really was the exact opposite to his great rival Chaplin - his deadpan face was a complete contrast to Chaplin's expressiveness.

John said...

Like Sam, this is a personal favorite, as well as a great work of art, probably my favorite Keaton. Another great review.

Shubhajit said...

Thanks John. Couldn't agree more with your views on this Buster Keaton masterwork.