Flickchart Film School: 1926

Ross Bonaime

Ross has been a lover of films for as long as he can remember. Since childhood, he has engulfed himself with movies, always trying to learn and watch more than any one lone human should ever attempt. Ross went to George Mason University, where he received a bachelors degree in communication with a focus in journalism and a film studies minor. He is a writer for Paste Magazine and Brightest Young Things. He loves all films, genres and periods. From George Melies to Christopher Nolan, Ross will watch anything to further his ongoing film education. Ross can be found at  rbonaime on Flickchart.

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5 Responses

  1. Caesar says:

    I definitely agree with you about The General needing some more prudent editing. That’s always been my main problem with the film.

  2. David Greenwood says:

    I’m a huge Keaton fan, and I will respectfully disagree with this criticism of The General. What I think is revolutionary about it is precisely what doomed it to failure: It invented the action comedy. Critics and audiences at the time either complained that it was funny enough or wasn’t thrilling enough. They were expecting one or the other. I think it strikes a great balance between the two, and is the clearest possible example of how much of an influence Keaton was on Jackie Chan, whose films follow a similar template to this one. It’s the silent film I recommend to people who refuse to watch silent films.

    The silent film I recommend to people who ARE willing to watch silent films is Sunrise, but that’s for next time :)

    • rbonaime says:

      Well, The General didn’t exactly invent the action comedy, but it’s one the first classic examples of the genre. It’s like how The Jazz Singer isn’t technically the first sound film, but it’s the film that popularized the technique. I do find it funny and thrilling, but I prefer his more precisely edited films. Sherlock Jr. is so lean and well edited that it’s near perfect. It does blend the two well, but I think having it trimmed a bit would have made it even more effective.

      I don’t know if Jackie Chan would be the best example, since Chan is very expressive and what makes Keaton so great is his constant deadpan. The closest comedy-wise that I can think of is Bill Murray or Steve Carell.

      I still prefer the work of Chaplin to Keaton, and maybe even Harold Lloyd over Keaton. For someone not willing to see silent films, I’d suggest probably City Lights or Modern Times. And I agree, I’m going to gush over Sunrise so much with the next post. Maybe the best film of the entire 20s.

    • David Greenwood says:

      With regard to Jackie Chan, I meant that his mix of comedy, thrills and insane stuntwork is very much along the lines of The General. Clearly Chan is more of an outright clown, but he’s acknowledged a debt to Keaton in interviews and I can really see it most in this film.

      I think the other nice thing about The General is that to modern audiences I think it plays the best out of Keaton’s work. I’m a fan of silent films but comedy is a tricky thing. I’ve never really “got” Chaplin, and I think many people my age would find that the thrills and stunts of The General have aged surprisingly well.