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  • Carrie Specht

The Great Buster: A Celebration


The Great Buster: A Celebration celebrates the life and career of one of America’s most influential and celebrated filmmakers and comedians, Buster Keaton. A man whose singular style and fertile output during the silent era created his legacy as a true cinematic visionary. The film opens on November 9th at Opera Plaza in San Francisco and Shattuck in Berkeley.

This film, by Peter Bogdanovich, was the Venezia Classic Award Winner at the Venice Film Festival in 2018. It was also official selections in 2018 at the Telluride Film Festival, the LA Film Festival and the Mill Valley Film Festival. And these are undoubtedly just the first of many festivals to come.

A celebration of the life and filmmaking career of the iconic comedian Buster Keaton starts with his life as a toddler in his family's vaudeville act. Keaton would later rise to Hollywood fame with his visionary silent comedies in the 1920s. Filled with stunningly restored archival Keaton films (curtesy of the Cohen Film Classics library), The Great Buster is directed by the legendary Peter Bogdanovich. A celebrated filmmaker in his own right, Bogdanovich is also a cinema historian whose landmark writings and films on such renowned directors as John Ford and Orson Welles have become the standard by which all other studies are measured. He also does spot-on impersonations of someHollywoods most popular icons.

Also chronicled in The Great Buster, is Keaton's development of his trademark physical comedy. During this time Keaton developed his signature deadpan expression, which earned him the lifelong moniker of “The Great Stone Face”. These periods led to his career-high years as director, writer, producer and star of his own short films and features. Interspersed throughout the film are interviews with nearly two-dozen collaborators, filmmakers, performers and friends, including Mel Brooks, Quentin Tarantino, Werner Herzog, Dick van Dyke and Johnny Knoxville. These industry notables discuss Keaton’s influence on modern comedy and, cinema itself.

The loss of artistic independence and career decline that marked Keaton's later years are, of course, also covered by the documentary. casts a close eye on Keaton’s extraordinary output from 1923 to 1929, which yielded ten remarkable feature films, including 1926’s The General and 1928’s Steamboat Bill, Jr. These productions immortalized the great comedian as one of the greatest actor-filmmakers in the history of cinema, alongside that of Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd.

This film may not make it to many theaters, so keep an eye out for The Great Buster: A Celebration to appear at your more independent and art house theaters. With Bogdanovich at the helm, I'm sure the venture will be well worth it.

#BusterKeaton #SilentMovies #SilentMovieStars #PeterBogdanovich