The Cameraman (Buster Keaton & Edgar Sedgwick, 1928)
Hopelessly in love with a woman working at MGM Studios, a clumsy man attempts to become a motion picture cameraman to be close to the object of his desire.
This is the first official review of my new feature that I hope to get running longer than the last ones I intended. Since, it’s a part of my film buff quest, to watch the entire list of the 1000 Greatest Films of All Time of the Website They Shoot Pictures Don’t They?, this new feature available on your left by the label Pantheon Directors, must be a more sizable goal to achieve. Starting with one of the few Buster Keaton films left on the list that I needed to see, I wanted to be able to fully judge if I’m still more of a Charlie Chaplin kind of person or if my heart will switch to “The Great Stone face”. This goes out to the good old adversity of Chaplin vs. Keaton or Keaton vs. Chaplin. Well, it ends up that even the most respected film critics don’t agree.
With The Cameraman Keaton does what he knows best while clearly injecting some melancholy and maybe a little bit of pathos. It is interesting to observe that it was Keaton’s first film for the MGM Studios and that they tried to impose their rigid style of film making and impose him their writers. This is one of the main reasons that Keaton felt into alcoholism later and lost almost everything. Hopefully, The Cameraman is clearly a Buster Keaton masterpiece and the MGM reform didn’t altered his touch.
Our main character named Buster just like the actor portraying him, meets a woman (Marceline Day) and wants to be with her. She works at the MGM studios and he wants to get a trial to get to be with her and eventually ask her out. However, he is a clumsy man and even if the road is filled with obstacle he is also stubborn and in love. Just like Keaton said himself, his little fellow is an honest man who works and want to get the girl fair and square. Chaplin’s tramp, on the contrary was a bum with a bum attitude and if he had to steal he’d steal. Another aspect of Keaton’s world is how he represents women and his character’s relationship with them. He treats them as his equal and while having respect for them he also insert them in his gags. Chaplin idolized women and would never touch their goddess-like aura.
With The Cameraman, Keaton proves again that he is a funny man that can make multiple physical gags but moreover that he is a marvellous storyteller displaying emotions with the deadpan expression and his long shots. Even if it’s a guy gets the girl classic story, the universality and the quality of this picture is quite something. One of Buster Keaton’s best Silent comedies.