That Buster Keaton fellow seems to be the whole show!
Only three movies this week, about par for the course,
The Play House (1921, Edward F. Cline & Buster Keaton, United States Of America) ***1/2
The idea of multiple Buster Keaton’s is hilarious in its own right. The way that Mr. Keaton, and Edward F. Cline, play with the theme of duality and happenstance to create the comedy of multiple Buster Keaton’s is more than funny, it’s smart cinema. Mr. Keaton adopting monkeyface should be stupid, but it’s very smart in the way that bit goes about its comedy. The Play House has many of the elements that I’ve come to both love and respect from a Buster Keaton film. It does, however, also feature another unfortunate incidence of blackface. I’m slightly more forgiving of the blackface in The Play House as it at least appears to have been woven into the framework of the film. But, blackface is still blackface, and I have a hard time completely forgiving blackface.
Tetsuo (Tetsuo, The Iron Man, 1989, Shin’ya Tsukamoto, Japan) **
Shin’ya Tsukamoto wants to be David Lynch so bad that he never realizes he lacks the skill, nuance, or invention of Mr. Lynch. Tetsuo plows forward like an out of control train, one where the conductor doesn’t really know what he’s doing. To make up for that he throws whatever he can at the viewer to try and disorient them. To make matters worse any time that Tsukamoto-san discovers a theme he wants to explore he bludgeons the audience to death with said theme. A mess of a film, but not the type of mess that equals inspired viewing.
Batman & Robin (1997, Joel Schumacher, United Kingdom/United States Of America) **
Ridiculous and over the top, but not without its charms. Arnold Schwarzenegger is delicious as Mr. Freeze, hamming it up in ways that almost seem impossible. The rest of the cast is extremely boring, but Herr Schwarzenegger manages to liven up every scene he’s involved in. James R. Bayliss does a tremendous job as set designer, as the Gotham of Batman & Robin is an almost perfect mesh of lively, art deco, and gothic aesthetics. The biggest sin committed by Batman & Robin is that it’s too damn long. The cheese is acceptable, and it came close to reaching so terrible it’s great levels, but the length turned what should have been a great campfest into a mediocre humdrum film. Still better, not surprisingly, than any of the Christopher Nolan entries in the franchise.
Even in a strong week of movies The Play House would be one heck of a movie. This week, however, featured an unremarkable pair of movies after one great one to start things off. The Play House stood out though, and that’s why it’s taking home movie of the week honors. Until next week, watch more movies!