This poster stumped pretty much everyone in our recent film quiz – perhaps because of its tricky graphics, or perhaps because the film is not as well-known amongst contemporary film-lovers as it should be! With his trademark stoney face, Buster Keaton makes for an earnest hero, battling the wrong-doings of a rival over the affections of a beautiful girl.
For those used to the more pointed, polished and faster-paced humour of Chaplin, Sherlock Jr can come across as a little slow at points and the excellent visual comedy has a much more naturalistic feel, delivering something of a rawer result. But there are fantastic examples of his comic and film-making genius here. The movie is one of the first examples of a film-within-a-film, when Keaton’s character – a lowly projectionist at a local theatre – falls asleep and imagines himself leaping into the film being screened, creating quite a surreal scene and perfectly illustrating Keaton’s ability to think outside the usual slapstick comedy box. In this new, meta-storyline, Keaton’s character becomes a great detective whose objective is to show the true nature of his rival’s character.
And, of course, there are also plenty of slapstick moments, including the famous ‘shadowing scene’:
Other visual gags abound, but amongst them are stunts that make the jaw drop; stunts that clearly must have been carried out with extreme precision but which are, none the less, delivered in Keaton’s characteristic loose and raw style, making them appear utterly haphazard.
And, of course, there’s the sublime pool-playing scene, where Keaton’s character manages to pot every ball whilst avoiding hitting the booby-trapped ball – all in the most nonchalant, off-hand manner imaginable. Yep. Sublime.
posted by Dixie Turner