Spotlight: The Best of Buster
November 23 - 29
In each of the first four weeks of November, we spotlight four great film figures - Montgomery Clift, Hal Ashby, Ingmar Bergman, and Buster Keaton - with acclaimed recent documentaries and selected examples of their best work.
We present three of Keaton's finest films in sparkling new digital restorations.
The Great Buster: A Celebration
2018, Peter Bogdanovich, USA, 101 min.
"Illuminating and astute...It's a celebration and also an invitation to some of the purest, strangest laughter the screen has to offer." - A.O. Scott, The New York Times
"Vastly entertaining…hats off and three cheers to Peter Bogdanovich for perceptively bringing the brilliance of one Hollywood's comic greats to fresh attention in this lovely and sharp-minded new documentary." - Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter
Buster Keaton was the most modern and cinematically sophisticated of the great silent comedians; his films have scarcely dated at all. Director/critic Bogdanovich (WHAT'S UP, DOC; PAPER MOON), who knows a thing or two about film comedy and film history, pays tribute to Keaton's ageless genius in this loving, beautifully assembled documentary. Narrated by Bogdanovich himself, the film traces Keaton's life from his vaudeville-star childhood through his first films with Fatty Arbuckle, heyday as an independent producer, and disastrous move to the constrictive MGM studio. An impressive roster of talking heads - including Dick Van Dyke, Mel Brooks, Bill Hader, Johnny Knoxville (a kindred connoisseur of dangerous stunts), Quentin Tarantino (who recognizes Keaton's skill as an action director), and many more - contribute appreciative and often insightful commentary. Rather than leap-frogging to Keaton's triumphant late-life rediscovery, the film explores his three decades of decline and obscurity, studded with rare and little-known items that show his comic brilliance still flickering. Bogdanovich then ends the film on the highest of high notes: a dazzling thirty-minute crescendo of excerpts from Keaton's masterpieces of the 1920s. DCP digital. (MR)
1924, Buster Keaton, USA, 46 min. With Buster Keaton, Kathryn McGuire
"Groundbreaking and profound. And it's a laugh riot, too." - Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader
One of the greatest tours de force in movie history, this pioneering "self-referential" film was a major influence on Chuck Jones's DUCK AMUCK and Woody Allen's THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO. Buster stars as a movie-house projectionist and amateur detective who dreams himself into the movie screen in order to solve a crime that mirrors his own real-life travails with an unscrupulous romantic rival. The precision of Keaton's gags here (his first entry into the movie screen; his instantaneous transformation into female disguise) at times approaches the mind-boggling. Preceded by Keaton's short film THE PLAYHOUSE (see below). Silent films with prerecorded music scores. New 4K DCP digital restorations. (MR)
1921, Buster Keaton, USA, 24 min.
THE PLAYHOUSE features a spectacular opening in which an entire theater is populated by replicas of Buster Keaton. New 4K digital restoration.
1926, Buster Keaton and Clyde Bruckman, USA, 80 min. With Buster Keaton, Marion Mack
"A hilarious comedy and a thrilling action film. THE GENERAL has it all." - Phillip Concannon, Little White Lies
A commercial and critical disappointment when first released, THE GENERAL became Keaton's most widely admired film. Based on the same Civil War incident that inspired Disney's THE GREAT LOCOMOTIVE CHASE, the film stars Buster as a Confederate Army wash-out who gets his chance to be a hero when Union spies steal his beloved locomotive. This ambitious production combines large-scale battle scenes with brilliant chase gags. Silent film with live piano accompaniment by Dave Drazin on Saturday; other shows with prerecorded music score composed by Carl Davis. New 4K DCP digital restoration. (MR)
Steamboat Bill, Jr.
1928, Charles F. Riesner, USA, 71 min. With Buster Keaton, Ernest Torrence
"Insanely inventive…If your faith in humanity needs a little pick-me-up, there's no better place to start." - Tom Huddleston, Time Out London
STEAMBOAT BILL, JR. was Keaton's last film under his own independent production banner, and it is one of his best. Buster returns from college citified and sissified, much to the disgust of his gruff steamboat-captain father (Torrence). To make matters worse, he falls in love with the daughter of dad's archrival. The hat-selecting scene and the umbrella-in-the-downpour scene are two of Keaton's best, but they are both topped by the cyclone climax - spectacular, surreal, and hair-raisingly dangerous. Silent film with prerecorded music score. New 4K DCP digital restoration. (MR)