The Explanation
(for those who require one)

And, of course, that is what all of this is -- all of this: the one song, ever changing, ever reincarnated, that speaks somehow from and to and for that which is ineffable within us and without us, that is both prayer and deliverance, folly and wisdom, that inspires us to dance or smile or simply to go on, senselessly, incomprehensibly, beatifically, in the face of mortality and the truth that our lives are more ill-writ, ill-rhymed and fleeting than any song, except perhaps those songs -- that song, endlesly reincarnated -- born of that truth, be it the moon and June of that truth, or the wordless blue moan, or the rotgut or the elegant poetry of it. That nameless black-hulled ship of Ulysses, that long black train, that Terraplane, that mystery train, that Rocket '88', that Buick 6 -- same journey, same miracle, same end and endlessness."
-- Nick Tosches, Where Dead Voices Gather

Who Makes Me Love Movies


Continuing my trip through the five Ws (and one H) like a good journalist, we come to Who, and I'd have to say my big "who" is the Great Stone Face himself. Few film artists acheive perfection on the level that Buster Keaton did, or with such seemingly effortless grace. Not only that, but his films seem to exist out of time, so restrained in terms of sentiment that it's hard to believe Keaton's protests that he wasn't trying to make timeless art, just funny pictures. When I first saw a 16mm print of The General at a local art college, something inside of me changed, I knew I had stumbled onto something truly special, and that feeling has not dimmed over time when I watch his films.

Too bad I can't say that about most other things in life.

5 comments :

Tom Sutpen said...

I'll make an embarassing confession right now: I was "The General" as a child and I didn't get it. Sure, it was funny, but I didn't see it (or Keaton's art) for what it was.

Not until I saw really ratty, but still watchable prints of "Cops", "The Boat" and "The Playhouse" at the Harvard Film Archive when I was 16-17 did the light finally get turned on.

Tom Sutpen said...

One of the drawbacks of typing these things as fast as I do is that sometimes incomprehensible typos emerge. This is one of those cases.

What I meant to say is that I *saw* "The General" as a youngster.

swac said...

I was well-versed in Chaplin and Lloyd from an early age (thanks CBC-TV!), so when I saw The General in my early teens, I was fairly well prepared for it. What I wasn't prepared for was the notion of a comedy that was also visually beautiful and I think that's why the film clicked so much for me, that for the first time I was seeing a comedy where the look of the film as well as the gags were so wonderfully intertwined.

I fell in love with it from the moment where Keaton is sitting on the bar that connects the train wheels, and starts moving up and down as the engine heads into the garage. A simple idea, beautifully executed. (Plus, I come from a railroad family, so there's a bit of a sentimental attachment as well.)

Ivan G. said...

I know I've told this story many, many times--but I first discovered Keaton while watching his Columbia comedy shorts as a child on TV. (That's also where I was introduced to Charley Chase and Harry Langdon.) I didn't get around to seeing Keaton's major and best stuff until my 20s, so I've often felt that if I was entranced by viewing what was clearly one of his career low points, so much so that it instilled in me a love to seek out more and more of his output--well, it speaks volumes of the man's incredible talent.

StevenT said...

The art form of Silent Pictures lasted what- 20 years?
And Keaton was an unquestioned master.

Imagine what would have been lost if he'd been born ten years later.