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MOVIE REVIEW: THE GREAT BUSTER (Screening as part of Revelation Film Festival)

| 10 September 2019 | Reply

MOVIE REVIEW: THE GREAT BUSTER (Screening as part of Revelation Film Festival)
Written & directed by Peter Bogdanovich
Starring Peter Bogdanovich, Buster Keaton
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

I have to admit that I cannot recall ever watching a full Buster Keaton movie. For the record, yes, I am suitably ashamed and will endeavour to rectify the situation soonest. But watching this glorious celebration of his life’s work, so many of his classic skits are familiar. Either I’ve seen a clip here and there, or I’ve caught a homage from someone he inspired – and make no mistake, he inspired EVERYBODY.

The eighteen month old John acquired the nickname Buster after a particularly spectacular tumble down a flight of stairs witnessed by family friend Harry Houdini – “that was a real buster!” – and seemed destined for slapstick and physical comedy. It wasn’t long before he became a child star, spending his youth literally being thrown around the stage as part of his parent’s vaudeville act.

The Great Buster explores his childhood in admirable depth, and despite this being a celebration and analysis of his career first and foremost, he doesn’t shirk away from the trickier parts of Keaton’s later life – a drinking problem, divorces, a nervous breakdown and bad business decisions all took their toll on him, as well as the quality of his work.

But it’s his almost faultless work between 1920 and 1929 which provides the focus of the film, and which is still influencing comics, actors and filmmakers today.

Sherlock Jr, The Cameraman, Go West and The General, widely regarded as his masterwork, still provide laughs and inspiration today, almost a century later.

Even after his glory days were gone, Keaton never gave up. In 1940 he eventually married his third wife, Eleanor Norris, the true love of his life, and they stayed together until his passing, aged 68, in 1966. It’s hard not to cheer when he finds this happiness in the movie, so invested are we in his journey.

The Great Buster features a wonderful wealth of clips from his movies, television and advertisement work, absolutely chock full of so many classic moments, and an engaging voice over from writer/director Peter Bogdanovich, as well as new interviews with Mel Brooks, Werner Herzog, Richard Lewis, Leonard Maltin, Carl Reiner, Cybill Shepherd, Quentin Tarantino, Dick Van Dyke and other A list fans. The result is a truly fascinating, ludicrously entertaining look at the work of one man, a man whose shadow is still cast over all who have followed him.

Category: Movie & Theatre Reviews

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