The Cameraman is the Pick of the Week

Buster Keaton's seminal 1928 masterpiece tops a new week of very interesting releases.
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What else can you say about the legendary Buster Keaton (one of three kings of silent cinema, alongside Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd)? He was known as "the Great Stone Face", capable of delivering sheer emotion using his famous deadpan expression and superb physical and otherworldly visual gags to tell stories of his underdog characters put in often dangerous situations but rising above and winning the girl. However, as much as I do love his early classics, such as The General, Steamboat Bill Jr., and Seven Chances, one of my two favorites of his has to the 1928 elaborate masterwork, The Cameraman, which arguably proved his power as a storyteller, even though he didn't direct it.

Keaton plays a humble camerman in Manhattan who tries so hard to impress his new boss and especially the girl of his dreams, a secretary of the M-G-M newsreel he works for. But in typical Keaton fashion, there are lots of obstacles (sometimes risky) that get in his way, including the veteran cameraman, who also loves her. This means that he has to find out a way to successfully film a Chinese tong war, in order to keep his job and win her affection. 

As usual, there are so many wonderful sight gags, a few of them involving double exposures, swimming pool changing rooms, and mishaps with an organ grinder's mischievous monkey. But there is also a level of emotional pathos that makes you root for Keaton. You simply can't believe some of the physicality he possessed, and sometimes you had to suspend your disbelief, but everything you see on the screen is real and very well-detailed. He was his own stuntman.

As one expects, the Criterion edition looks like another winner, with a new 4K restoration and many exhaustingly wonderful supplements, including an audio commentary featuring Glenn Mitchell (author of A-Z of Silent Comedy: An Illustrated Companion); Spite Marriage, Keaton's followup to The Camerman for MGM, with a new restoration and commentary with film historians John Bengtson and Jeffrey Vance; Time Travelers, a new documentary by Daniel Raim; So Funny it Hurt, a new 2004 documentary by Kevin Brownlow and Christopher Bird; The Motion Picture Camera, a 1979 documentary by cinematographer and film preservationist Karl Malkames; and a new interview with James L. Neibaur, author of The Fall of Buster Keaton: His Films for MGM, Educational Pictures, and Columbia. There's also a new essay by critic Imogen Sara Smith. If you're a Keaton enthusiast and of silent cinema as a whole, then this should definitely be a no-brainer to add to your collection. Read Gordon S. Miller's review.

Other notable releases:

Pretty in Pink: The iconic 1986 teen dramedy with Molly Ringwald and Andrew McCarthy falling in love, but dealing with the fallout from their friends and family, due to their social/economic backgrounds. Read my review.

Gladiator (4K): A new steebook edition of the 2000 Oscar-winning epic with Russell Crowe as a former general turned slave seeking venegeance for the murder of his family by the power hungry son of his beloved emperor.

Friday the 13th (40th Anniversary): A new steelbook edition of the iconic 1980 cult classic that spawned one of the greatests franchises in horror/slasher movie history. Read David Wangberg's review.

What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael: A portrait of the career and life of perhaps the most controversial figure in the history of film criticism, Pauline Kael, which also details her struggle to achieve influence in the movie business.

Impractical Jokers: The Movie: A new film version of the very popular truTV series sending Joe, Sal, Q, and Murr on the road competing in more outrageous pranks and challenges that they are famous for.

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