Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Cameraman (1928)

Poor Buster (Buster Keaton) sells tintypes for a dime. When a pretty reporter for the fictitious newsreel company MGM crosses his path, he decides he will make a name for himself by selling them some photos. Yea, all silent comedies are alike. Down on his luck everyman falls for pretty girl, and he must show his worth. And this one is pretty much by the books.

This was Buster’s first film with MGM. Assuming he was also the director, he started off behaving as such. When real director Edward Sedgwick told him not to, he took a back seat. But when Sedgwick had trouble getting the actors to understand what he wanted, he asked Buster for assistance.

The move from independent filmmaker to MGM lackie has largely been seen as a terrible move for Keaton. He wanted the financial stability of a large studio, but lost the freedom to create the film he wanted. But Keaton knew cinema was changing. Sound cinema required resources. More equipment, more technicians, quieter sets. And it ushered forth a new form of storytelling at odds with his established style. Buster’s transition to sound and big studios could have gone better for him and the studio as well, but his drinking and lifestyle ruffled feathers enough to keep him at odds with the industry. When the box office dried up, there was little reason to listen to his concerns, and Buster would fade into a forgotten genius.

But, back to the movie at hand. Although the trend would not continue, Buster did manage to produce a film worth of his reputation. AMRU 3.5.
“What are you doin ‘.... givin’ me a sleigh-ride?”

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