Film : Sherlock Jr. (1924)
Director : Buster Keaton
Language : Silent
The only Buster Keaton movie I had seen before Sherlock Jr. was the most popular ‘The General’. I loved his slapstick style and the daredevilry that he exhibited in ‘The General’ and I was so impressed that I immediately ranked him second to Charlie Chaplin in the silent movie genre. But that was before I saw Sherlock Jr.
The plot is simple, a wannabe detective currently working as a film projectionist tries to solve the case of his girlfriend’s father’s stolen watch, but instead he is framed for the theft and all that the hapless projectionist could do is dream about being in a movie as the world’s greatest detective – Sherlock Jr. and solve a case that is similar to his real life.
Once the dream sequence began, I couldn’t help myself gaping at the screen with my mouth wide open thinking all the time – How the hell did he do it? And the answer to that question is only Buster could dream with such brilliant imagination and artistry. The movie stands out for its crisp editing; amazing camera work and astonishing as well as hilarious acrobatics that only Buster Keaton could do (the only other person who could do that kind of stunts is his self-confessed fan Jackie Chan). Each and every scene in the movie comes out as a remarkably entertaining spectacle, especially the movie in a movie surrealist scene where Buster Keaton enters into the movie screen after being tossed out once by the villain and then the film itself starts playing games with him when he stays on the screen but the sequences keep changing rapidly landing him in different situations for e.g. once he is standing in a busy street and then immediately he is standing on a cliff of a mountain and then right in the middle of two lions. These quick successions will easily leave anyone astonished. The cutting of scenes is so precise and the camera angles so perfect that you’ll actually believe in an illusion where Buster was always in one place and only the scenes around him were changing. Some of the other scenes equally remarkable were the Billiards game where Buster always miraculously misses the explosive Ball no 13, the jump through the window into an old lady costume, the entire motorcycle ride and the run along the top of the train and then coming down from the water spout where Buster actually broke his neck.
In a world when there were no CGI or special effects comes this movie that was so technically advanced and ahead of its time that for every scene that I saw in the movie, there’s only one word that very distinctively comes to my mind – ASTONISHING!!!