I wouldn’t make a good detective, or a movie projectionist for that matter!
Story By: Clyde Bruckman, Jean C. Havez, & Joseph A. Mitchell
Directed By: Buster Keaton
Action, comedy, fantasy, or romance, what exactly is Sherlock Jr.? The answer is that it’s all of those genres without ever fully committing to being any one of those genres. There are fantasy elements at play in Sherlock Jr., but the elements of comedy, romance, and action are also present. Buster Keaton’s film easily avoids genre classification because it willingly plays around in the different genres it includes within its whole. The comedy need not stop for the fantasy to be formed, just as the action doesn’t have to exit the screen in order for the romance to work. The narrative of Sherlock Jr. moves seamlessly from one genre to another so that I never felt like I was watching a film in one specific genre. Rather, I was watching one whole film, and a masterful film at that.
There’s not much I can say about Mr. Keaton that hasn’t already been said, or even that I haven’t said already. He is a master of the big screen. There’s an allure to Mr. Keaton because of how easily he takes control of a film and makes it his own. Throughout all of Sherlock Jr. he keeps his tried and true stone face completely set in stone. His eyes though, his eyes tell so much of the story. And when he does allow for some sort of facial expression, it’s as if the film explodes. Mr. Keaton is such a strong presence that Sherlock Jr. would be a fine film even if his screen presence were all the movie had going for it.
Fortunately for Sherlock Jr. Mr. Keaton isn’t just a screen presence, he’s also a presence behind the camera as well. I understand that Mr. Keaton often shares the directing credit for his films. Yet, I’ve found that there are themes that go from one Mr. Keaton film to another. In my mind the reason for this is simple; Buster Keaton has a clear stamp that he is leaving on the films he directs. The most prevalent theme, for me at least, is that action is what makes comedy. There are gags in Sherlock Jr., but the majority of the time they come about through the impetus of action. That, to me, lends credence to the idea that in the world of Mr. Keaton there is nothing to separate one genre from another. There is action, there is comedy, there is fantasy, there is romance, and for Mr. Keaton they are one and the same.
Obviously I was enamored with the meta fantasy section of Sherlock Jr.. Similar to something like The Purple Rose Of Cairo, the theme of wanting to be what we see in the movies interests me. Mr. Keaton presents his theme as nothing more than another aspect of his film. That’s to say, the meta fantasy element of Sherlock Jr. isn’t given any sort of special consideration. It feels organic, and it does spring forth naturally from the story of the film. It works in spades, and it can be dissected over and over again. But, what impressed me most about the meta fantasy element of Sherlock Jr. was that it was nothing more than another element of the film.
There’s nary a negative I can bring to bear against Sherlock Jr.. While I still slightly prefer The General, Sherlock Jr. is another master work from Buster Keaton. It’s hilariously funny, it’s smart, well shot, full of intense action, and has a fantasy bent that is very intriguing. Sherlock Jr. is, most of all, a wonderful little film to watch. It’s short, about forty four minutes, but it packs quite the filmmaking wallop into its short run time. You don’t need to be a fan of Buster Keaton to love Sherlock Jr., but you must be a fan of movies in general. Of course, if you’re not, then why the heck would you be reading this blog or care about Buster Keaton in the first place? As a better ending, go and watch Sherlock Jr., even if you’ve seen it before, you’ll have a great time, trust me.