WWBKD?

While reading everything I could about the man who fascinates me as much for his life story as for his brilliance as a filmmaker, I found that certain themes began to emerge. Commentators such as Richard Lewis (actor/comedian and fan in this short clip), Paul Merton (host of the BBC Special "Silent Clowns"), or Edward McPherson (author of Keaton biography "Tempest in a Flat Hat") all wanted to talk about the circumstances under which they first encountered Buster. I am no different. Like falling in love, we want to remember every detail of when we 'met' this man. And beyond wishing to share our first encounters with him lies a common desire to believe we are like him. People strive to recognize a bit of themselves in what we so value in him.

The desire to find ourselves in Keaton touches on a transcendent theme that is itself remarkable. Keaton plays an everyman whom we experience as one of us. We feel like him and want to be like him, and best of all, we somehow believe that we could. He is fundamentally accessible. But these feelings are remarkable given that he was not a regular guy at all. He was extraordinary in face, form, talent, creativity and calm.

Seriously, Keaton was beautiful, with a phenomenal classic nose, high cheekbones, thick hair, and of course those stunning and expressive eyes. Yet, somehow he isn't seen as a sex symbol, nor filmed with an eye toward glamor. He is just a boyish fellow with a "great stone face." Similarly, he had an amazing physique with which he could accomplish astonishing feats of skills that most of us couldn't dream up, let alone do. Yet, he often portrayed an almost bumbling, down on his luck, guy just muddling through life. But in the face of life's crazy turns, how many of us can sit zenlike in the middle in a state of supreme acceptance?

Keaton can and he wins us over heart and soul for it.

Despite his awesomeness, despite his extraordinary talent, skill and beauty, Keaton somehow never feels out of reach. His films make you feel good because they simply sit right. We imagine ourselves behaving in the same great centered way -- accepting our fate completely and living within it. His genius is in allowing us all to share both the emboldening impact of his skill and the lovely accepting tone of his movies.

2 comments:

  1. Hi, I just found your blog and love it. I'm a film student, just started a few months ago, and they "forced" me to watch a few Chaplin and Keaton films. Chaplin was fun. Keaton changed my life. They make me read a lot of texts about philosophy and film and what not, and I think what strikes me about *his* films (which I may do my final essay for this year about) is that, unlike in most classical films, he doesn't seem to inhabit a world that's built around him to drive him as a character. His worlds are chaotic, violent, and he usually starts his films as an insignificant spec in the hugeness of them, yet he marches on and makes the most of it. It's almost existentialist, without being cynical. It fills me with ... joy, of course, but also a will to go on and power through it all. He was awesome in every sense of the word. Just as an aside, now that I stopped drooling and hyperbolic-ing, I'm writing from Argentina so, referencing another recent post of yours, I don't know how many readers you have, but since Buster is not only timeless but also universal (even if he couldn't be more American) I'm glad you're still doing this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment! I totally agree with your assessment of him and ... I really appreciate knowing that film students in Argentina are studying Buster Keaton. Warms my heart. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and kind words. I do appreciate it.

      Delete