Monday, February 8, 2016

Buster Keaton in THE GENERAL

In the earliest days of cinema men strapped themselves to the fronts of trains to film the moving countryside. Buster Keaton, the lesser-known god of silent cinema, did all of his own stunts without faking it. In THE GENERAL, he actually sits on a train's rotating gears as it carries him up, actually rode on the front of a charging train, and actually blew up a bridge with a train on it in the most expensive silent film scene ever filmed. THE GENERAL is his most accessible film, a gorgeous confederate's tale with the train as a central character, around which Keaton perhaps proves himself a better physical comedian than Chaplin himself. Keaton's career wouldn't know the longevity of Chaplin's, but in the decade that he directed SHERLOCK JR., THE GENERAL, THREE AGES, and a handful more dazzling comedies, he cemented himself in cinema history, and in the funny bone of everyone who has enacted physical comedy since.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

SUNRISE A Song of Two Humans

THE GOLD RUSH by Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chapin, the most recognized name in the world since the 1920's the world over. Chaplin provides us with humanity, through a little tramp with Hitler's mustache, with a distinct waddle, cane, and top hat. THE GOLD RUSH, his best silent comedy, begins with shots of a line of people trudging to Alaska, single file, the men of the world out to make their fortune. And then we find the tramp waddling across the tundra, poorly dressed for the weather, a lone traveler. His loneness, apart from the rest of humanity, makes him our hero. He doesn't act as he should, he's clumsy but kind-hearted, and it's in him that we find what we like to call humanity.

Saturday, February 6, 2016


Murnau's NOSFERATU, a light play of shadow and searing white: the eponymous vampire of the night appearing as a rat-faced stiff, literally the walking-dead. His appearances, with those spindly elongating fingers, perfectly embody the paranoia at the heart of vampire myth. Unlike Tod Browning's demure figure, Nosferatu is all-creature: like the venus fly trap, a prickly monster people fall into unknowingly, but who haunts and stalks those to whom he feels you are connected.

Friday, February 5, 2016


DG's feminist masterpiece, after BIRTH OF A NATION and INTOLERANCE, starring Lillian Gish as "a plain girl" up against the tyranny of patriarchy and war. Opening with that jaw-dropping title, and following a normal girl of the times, whose naivety constricts her to fate. Gish's earnest presence, her humanity, entraps the viewer to watch her traverse the impossibility of being able to react. She must only be acted upon, be chosen, be disposed of. A hundred years later this film remains valid: it shows us how people are tied into bondage by their culture