Thursday, January 28, 2016

Buster Keaton and Physical Comedy

As many of you know, my thesis film, Mime and Punishment is inspired by the works of Buster Keaton and his influence on visual and physical humor. On the off chance you are not aware of who Buster Keaton is, he's this guy.
Steamboat Bill Jr.
This bit, from his film Steamboat Bill Jr. is perhaps Keaton's most famous stunt and has been continually referenced throughout pop culture.
Gags, like the one above, are what Keaton was known for. His films were chock full of and heavily reliant on physical humor. Keaton's characters, would often find himself in zany and often dangerous situations. What's even more remarkable was all of his stunts, were done by himself. With all these zany stunts came a fantastic visual storytelling. Silent films of the time, Buster Keaton's included, had to rely on title cards in lieu of dialogue for exposition. Most films of the period had an average of 240 title cards.
 Imagine 240 of these being needed to tell your story. Keaton said that he never used over 65. That's almost 1/4th of what every other film used. Instead, Keaton relied on the kinetic and often slapstick energy to tell story in non-verbal manners. Keaton was always entering and leaving frame in interesting ways. His mannerisms and framing have had a lasting legacy. This fantastic video from Every Frame a Painting shows the lasting legacy of Keaton as well as better explaining the points I made in this post.

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