Archive for February 27th, 2010

**** ½


By Bob Clark


Of the myriad twists, turns and genuine surprises to be found throughout The Ghost Writer, perhaps the biggest one is the revelation that Roman Polanski is, in fact, a colossal bookworm. This is, after all, the second thriller he’s built around, of all things, the publishing world, and the fact that he has managed to generate such suspense, charm and black humor out of the writing, reading and editing of printed words on a page must be one of the director’s signature achievements. Perhaps it shouldn’t really be that big of a shock—after all, his first name translates as “novel” in his home-language of French. Like any other filmmaker, Polanski is familiar with reading scripts, and sometimes even writing them himself, penning words both to be spoken and found between the lines that are laced with that characteristic smirking cynicism of his. Some of his defining films, like so many other directors, were based on novels both well known and underreported—how else would most people have heard of Arturo Perez-Reverte’s tale of the book-detective underworld had it not been for Polanski’s wickedly satanic The Ninth Gate? Besides, for a man who’s spent the better part of his adult life avoiding most of the civilized world in the interest of dodging extradition, it’s not as though he’s got anything better to do with his time. He may belong in prison, but at least he’s developed a jail-bird’s hobbies.


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by Allan Fish

(USA 1924 45m) DVD1/2

How to be a detective

p  Joseph M.Schenck  d/ed  Buster Keaton  w  Clyde Bruckman, Jean Havez, Joseph Mitchell  ph  Elgin Lessley, Byron Houck

Buster Keaton (Sherlock Jr), Kathryn McGuire (girl), Ward Crane (rival), Joseph Keaton,

Of the three great silent comedians – along with Chaplin and Lloyd – Keaton is often described as the best, the most ingenious and certainly, in the timing of his gags, one cannot argue that point.  Buster’s timing of physical gags often quite beggars belief (remember the gag with the side of the house in Steamboat Bill Jnr?) and made him beloved of an entire generation.  A master of both the comedy short and the feature (like Chaplin before him), three other films in the list, Cops, Our Hospitality and The General, will detail his genius there.  Sherlock Junior, on the other hand, though technically a feature in that it is over forty minutes in length, often gets overlooked in best film lists for falling, in length terms at least, between the devil and the deep blue sea.  However, though The General is indeed his masterpiece, Buster the gag man was at his peak here.

            The story concerns a small town projectionist at a local fleapit who is in love with a young girl.  He unfortunately has a rival for her affections, in the form of a ne’er-do-well thief who contrives to get Buster accused of stealing her father’s watch.  Returning to his job dejected, he imagines himself in the films he’s projecting, solving crimes and winning the girl at all costs.  When he wakes up, his girl comes to him and tells him the family have realised their error.

            There are gag scenes her (more…)

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