15. “Seven Chances”, Buster Keaton (1925)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list.

Seven Chances

Seven Chances

dir. Buster Keaton scr. Clyde Bruckman, Jean Havez, Joseph A. Mitchell cin. Byron Bouck, Elgin Lessley with Buster Keaton, T. Roy Barnes, Snitz Edwards

In 100 words: The greatest comedy is a silent movie made in the 1920s made by one of its most distinguished artists. Keaton’s unfathomable genius and inventiveness shines through in this movie that’s so daring and reckless, that one can feel an unexpected jolt of thrill, a tinge of suspense, and a lot of humor and relief from watching him go through one crazy stunt after another. He’s so committed physically even as his magnificent face retains its trademark deadpan. Hilarious from start to finish, but the second half is particularly stunning, especially the centerpiece chase–the most perfect comic set piece ever.

Other Movies for Context: Unmatched excellence in physical comedy and deadpan wit. Interestingly, I think of Jackie Chan, who, like Keaton, crafted laugh after laugh out of the most dangerous stunts (and even broke bones because of them!). I think of Drunken Master (1978), Rumble in the Bronx (1995), and Rush Hour (1998).

Advertisements

60. “Sherlock, Jr.”, Buster Keaton (1924)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list.

Sherlock Jr

Sherlock, Jr.

dir. Buster Keaton scr. Clyde Bruckman, Jean Havez, Joseph A. Mitchell cin. Byron Houck, Elgin Lessley with Buster Keaton, Kathryn McGuire, Joe Keaton, Erwin Connelly

In 100 words: Keaton’s hilarious silent film is the best movie about the movies and their ability to enthrall audiences. The narrative is pretty standard, but the execution is superb. Keaton is a master of expressive body languages, and his control of his droll facial expressions is exquisite. He uses them to execute incredible pratfalls and give stellar reaction shots. But the centerpiece of this movie is the real treat: in a stunning use of montage and display of visual wit, Keaton dreams that he enters the movies and is transported through different scenes—probably the most astounding visual effect I’ve ever seen.

Other Movies for Context: Keaton is a legend, but his most well-known picture, The General (1926), feels sluggish to me, although I see what other people see in it. When I think of this movie, I think a lot about The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), Woody Allen’s gorgeous and moving film about a girl who falls in love with the leading man onscreen. It’s a must-see.