A two-month tribute of Buster Keaton at the BFI

Buster Keaton, Courtesy of Tom Margie on Flickr
Buster Keaton, Courtesy of Tom Margie on Flickr

A collection of 30 Buster Keaton feature films and shorts will run at the British Film Institute in Southbank in London till the end of February.

BFI revisits one of the greatest masters of the silent era due to a new 4K digital restoration of 1926th The General, one of Keaton’s finest comedies.

“New DCPs [Digital Cinema Package] have been made of most Keaton’s features and some of his shorts, so it seemed a good time to revisit his work,” says Geoff Andrew, Head of Film Programme at BFI Southbank.

Film buffs have a chance to see some of his major classics, such as Steamboat Bill Jr, Cops and Go West. The Great Stone Face (nickname for Keaton) left invaluable legacy to the world cinema, especially comedy.

“The idea that comedy films needed strong characterisation and a strong story rather than just a series of slapstick gags, and that there should be as much attention paid to how the films looked – their cinematography, their sets, their costumes, etc. – as there would be for a serious drama,” says Geoff about Keaton’s biggest contribution to comedy.

Even nowadays, when silent movies are a matter of ancient history to some, certain elements of Keaton’s work are visible in modern cinema.

“Certain filmmakers echo Keaton’s dark, honest, unsentimental view of life, and others have a similar cinematic style in terms of composition, editing and overall understatement,” Geoff explained. “He understood that one should pay attention to a film’s form as well as its content if one were to make the most of its meaning and its comic potential.”

Film theorists often discuss the similarities and differences between Charlie Chaplin and Keaton. Besides the different acting styles, Geoff Andrew says that Keaton paid more attention to the overall appearance of his films.

“Chaplin was a great mime, but Keaton was not only a great actor but a great director – he thought a lot more about how a film looked, how it was constructed, where to put the camera, when to cut. Chaplin is always looking at the camera/audience in an appeal for audience sympathy; Keaton never did that,” says Geoff.

Joseph Frank “Buster” Keaton (October 4, 1895 – February 1, 1966) was an American comic actor, filmmaker, producer and writer. Keaton first appeared in movies in 1917, and acted in a total of 127 films, while directing 29 of them. In 1960 he won an Honorary Award at the Oscars.

Image courtesy of Tom Margie on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/tom-margie/1535277905

Article published on http://www.wnol.info/a-two-month-tribute-of-buster-keaton-at-the-bfi/

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