Buster Keaton in Daydreams
To celebrate TCM’s month-long screening of Buster Keaton films every Sunday in October, I’ve been following along from the UK through the week with the aid of various DVDs, Twitter and this blog.
This final Holyrood or Bust(er) post takes many liberties with the TCM schedule and I’ve decided to end my personal Buster marathon with 1925’s Seven Chances.
Seven Chances (1925)
Seven Chances is a film which Buster had little interest in making and that I find hard to label top level Keaton, even if he doesn’t falter for a moment.
Opening with a clever gag involving the passage of time that sets up Buster’s ineffectual character perfectly, here he’s a young bachelor who inherits money, a cool seven million dollars, from his grandfather. The only catch is that he must be married by his 27th birthday, which happens to be that day. Cue Buster and his cronies trying to come up with the goods, namely a viable wife, before 7pm.
For many of Buster’s contemporaries the story that follows would make a fine film, but for Keaton it’s not particularly inspired. Trying to get both Buster and a girl to the alter results in a number of fun sequences, but it’s the chase towards the climax that has endured more than anything else here.
It begins with hundreds of potential brides-to-be chasing Buster through the streets and climaxes with him being “chased” down a hill by dozens of boulders, the little man dodging them as best he can. On a TV set it’s impressive but it deserves to be watched on a cinema screen, particularly the bit where he’s whacked by a giant boulder.
If you haven’t seen the film I won’t spoil things by saying whether or not he does get himself a wife, hopefully you’ll enjoy finding out.
Spending many of my October evenings in the company of Buster Keaton provided me with some of the finest viewing experiences I’ve had for a long time. I hadn’t seen all of the films before, meaning some of those 85-year-old misadventures were as fresh as they were to the original audiences, even if my sitting room and TV aren’t quite as impressive as the cinemas and big screen that they witnessed his antics in and on.
What has hopefully become obvious in these brief write-ups is that Buster’s work was endlessly inventive and pretty much timeless. I suspect that if I can still enjoy a silent black and white film almost 100 years after they were made, in another 100 years the basic idea of a man taking on the world and winning (in one way or another) will still be funny.
It’s also become obvious that while modes of transport and communication have changed radically, human relationships haven’t. It’s still about boy meeting girl. There are still men who’ll fight for no apparent reason and little guys who have to fight back. We still want to improve ourselves and we still have to bounce back when things go wrong.
Buster Keaton may be shy, romantic, hopeful, happy, sad and determined but so are we. Buster takes things to the next level and often stretches credibility, but most of his films are based in some sort of recognisable reality and audiences want him to succeed, just as they try to in their own lives.
I’ve still got more Buster to watch, and I may blog about them at some point, but for now I salute Turner Classic Movies for taking the time to screen such a wealth of material and apologise I didn’t manage to write about every film. As long as I showed that Buster is still relevant to film fans and the world all these years later, and perhaps inspire one of them to check out a film on DVD, at a film festival or on YouTube, I’ll be smiling as much as Buster is behind that old stone face.