Monday, January 26, 2015
Directed and edited by Buster Keaton, with additional direction from Fatty Arbuckle, and written by Clyde Bruckman, Jean Havez, and Joseph A. Mitchell, Sherlock Jr. is the story of a film projectionist who dreams about being in a mystery movie as he finds himself in the movie. The film is a mystery-comedy where a man finds himself being part of a case and does whatever to help the characters in the film. Starring Buster Keaton, Kathryn McGuire, Joe Keaton, and Ward Crane. Sherlock Jr. is a whimsical and dazzling film from Buster Keaton.
The film revolves around a wannabe detective who works as a film projectionist as he dreams about being in a movie where he plays a detective trying to solve a mystery. It’s a film that sort of mirrors what is happening with this young projectionist in the real world as he has been accused of stealing his girlfriend’s father’s pocketwatch and pawning it off. It’s a film that blurs the idea of reality and fiction where this young man dreams that he is in a movie by walking into the movie that he is playing in the theater and becomes part of it. It’s an idea that is truly filled with a lot of imagination as well as ideas of how cinema can shape the direction of a young man. Even as the movie he is in has him fulfilling his own fantasies to become a detective.
Buster Keaton’s direction is definitely filled with lots of imaginative ideas not just in his approach to gags but also in how the ideas of fantasy can play into a young man’s desire to succeed. Much of it involves some inventive use of compositions in the way Keaton frames himself in the projection booth or in medium shots to showcases his approach to comedy. Even as the gags are very spectacular such as a car chase scene or Keaton playing the detective in following the man he suspects. Keaton’s usage of tracking and dolly shots to capture some of the action as well as his own inventive use of editing in a very funny sequence of his character being in one scene and then in another in a rhythmic cutting style that adds to the whimsical tone of the film. Overall, Keaton creates a very charming and majestic film about a young projectionist who wishes to be a detective.
Cinematographers Byron Houck and Elgin Lessley do excellent work with the film‘s black-and-white photography to create some unique lighting schemes for a few of the film‘s interior settings including the sequence where Keaton enters the movie screen. Art director Fred Gabourie does brilliant work with the set pieces from the homes that are used for some very spectacular gags as well as the look of the theater where Keaton‘s character is working at. Costume designer Clare West does superb work with the costumes from the clothes in the real-world scene to the more lavish look of the clothes in the movie-within-a-movie sequence. The film’s music by the Club Foot Orchestra is amazing for its approach to old-school jazz music and orchestral music to play into its humor and romance as it adds a lot of energy to the film.
The film’s fantastic ensemble includes some notable small performances from Erwin Connelly in a dual role as a butler and a hired hand for the film’s villain in the fantasy sequence as well as Joe Keaton in a terrific performance as the girlfriend’s father in both the real-world and fantasy sequences. Ward Crane is excellent as the film’s antagonist in dual versions as the rival in the real-life scene and as the thief in the fantasy scenes. Kathryn McGuire is amazing as the girl whom the film’s protagonist loves as she appears in both the real-life sequences and the fantasy sequences as she is far more interesting in the real-life sequences. Finally, there’s Buster Keaton in a phenomenal performance as the projectionist who wants to be a detective as he would live out his fantasies as the titular character where Keaton’s approach to physical comedy and intricate stunt work is among one of the reasons why he was so revered in the era of silent films.
Sherlock Jr. is a remarkable film from Buster Keaton as it’s definitely one of his finest films as well as one of the essentials in silent comedies. It’s a film that has a lot of ambition but also imagination that manages to showcase what could be done with cinema. Especially as it manages to transcend ideas about reality and fiction. In the end, Sherlock Jr. is an incredible film from Buster Keaton.
Buster Keaton Films: (The Rough House) - (One Week (1920 short)) - (Convict 13) - (The Scarecrow (1920 short)) - (Neighbors (1920 short)) - (The Haunted House (1921 short)) - (Hard Luck (1921 short)) - (The High Sign) - (The Goat (1921 short)) - (The Playhouse) - (The Boat) - (The Paleface) - (Cops) - (My Wife’s Relations) - (The Blacksmith) - (The Frozen North) - (The Electric House) - (Day Dreams (1922 short)) - (The Balloonatic) - (The Love Nest) - (Three Ages) - (Our Hospitality) - The Navigator - Seven Chances - (Go West (1925 film)) - (Battling Butler) - The General - (College (1927 film)) - Steamboat Bill Jr. - The Cameraman - (Spite Marriage) - (The Gold Ghost) - (Allez Oop) - (Tars and Stripes) - (Grand Slam Opera) - (One Run Elmer) - (Blue Blazes) - (Mixed Magic) - (Love Nest on Wheels)
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