Buster Keaton and the Uses of Illusion
I often think very deep thoughts about Buster Keaton’s early stage life in vaudeville and then I get deep thought fatigue and go have some cookies. But really, there’s a lot to be said about how Keaton’s early stage experience prepared him for the moment he met a movie camera. For instance, doesn’t Buster Keaton’s stone-faced character seem to appear fully formed, even in his earliest appearances in Arbuckle’s movies? If we can agree that Keaton was the most accomplished technical film maker of all the silent clowns (if you don’t agree, boo on you), isn’t there an argument to be made that by having his performance already down pat, he had the time and attention to devote to the craft of filmmaking? I think there are some solid arguments to be made here. But, like I said, the siren call of cookies usually stops me from actually making them.
Which is why I was delighted to come across “The Conjurer: Buster Keaton and the uses of illusion” by Ben Robinson, published by The Moving Image Source. Here’s a nifty little piece about Keaton’s pre-movie experience in the art illusion and how it appears again and again in his filmmaking, and, well, his plain old Buster-ness. It’s a fascinating piece, made all the better that someone else said it so I don’t have to. Now where did my cookies get off to?