Monday, May 27, 2013

The Cameraman (1928) Review

Keaton's The Cameraman poster
Director: Edward Sedgwick, Buster Keaton (uncredited)
Stars: Buster Keaton, Marceline Day
Genre: Slapstick, Romantic Comedy

The Cameraman was Keaton's first film after moving to MGM--a move he would later consider to be the worst decision of his life--and it also happens to be one of the last silent films he did. More importantly though it is widely considered the last "true" Keaton film; the last picture he would make with passion and in his signature Keaton style. 

I have very mixed feelings about The Cameraman. If I could compare it to one other silent Keaton film it'd probably be The General, since both feel very well-paced and more slow, making it feel more like a typical film rather than a mere laugh fest. There are laughs to be had no doubt, it just feels more like a Romantic Comedy than any other Keaton film before it. In fact, I'd say that this film feels more like a Charlie Chaplin picture than a Buster Keaton one. Which, of course, isn't necessarily a bad thing. 

There's not much in the way of stunts here, which is a tad disappointing but also not surprising. When MGM signed Keaton they forced him to use a stunt double for some of the more dangerous stunts as they were keen on protecting their investment (it's just a shame they killed it at the same time). There are plenty of, what shall I call them...visual jokes, though. Watching Keaton talk to a monkey or play pretend baseball or break a window over and over is all well and good and funny, it's just not nearly as impressive as some of his earlier work. 

Buster Keaton with a monkey in The Cameraman

Whereas The General felt more like a proper Action Adventure than a Slapstick, The Cameraman feels more like a proper Romantic Comedy. Keaton films have always involved a boy trying to win a girl, and his films have always had a very basic level of emotion to them, but in The Cameraman much of it is Keaton's character actually spending time with the girl (played by the very beautiful Marceline Day I may add) rather than just overcoming obstacles and spending the final frame of the film with her in his arms. So, in that respect, I suppose it is natural to say that The Cameraman has some of the best character development we've ever seen in a Keaton picture (though that's hardly the point of a Keaton picture).

Marceline Day and Buster Keaton in The Cameraman

It's a pleasant little film with lots of emotion and some real good laughs. A must-see for Keaton fans as it both marks the end of one part of his career and the beginning of another (or the beginning of the end would perhaps be more accurate--or perhaps just the end).

3.5/5 stars

Purchase The Cameraman on Amazon: DVD Collection - DVD - VHS

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