Quick-Thoughts: The Cameraman (1928)

A monkey fires a mounted machine gun into a public crowd in this, so yeah… that’s a thing.

I’ve seen a ton of Buster Keaton clips over the course of my life, but The Cameraman is actually my first encounter with one of his full feature-lengths. Keaton’s storyline here definitely falls within the same vein as Chaplin’s stories, following a clumsy underdog who tries his hardest to win over a woman out of his “league”. The story is ultimately charming enough and simply blissful as a result, but that’s not the main thing that won me over…

Technicalities. First off, the elongated staircase gag blew my mind; I had never seen it beforehand and to think that it was conducted in 1928 is baffling… AND THEN THAT CHINATOWN SEQUENCE; LIKE WHAT? HOW? It reminds me of when I first saw Chaplin’s The Gold Rush (1925) and nudged to myself, “how does this look so superior to the majority of movies I’ve seen despite the technical constraints of its time period?” There’s an admirably impressive scope to The Cameraman whether it be in the busy stunt-work or even Edward Sedgwick’s camera angles/compositions, it all seems a tad far ahead of its time too, and for it to be represented in a slapstick comedy of all genres is euphoric! The disturbed daughters, the changing room scene, etc. etc.; for 70 minutes, you get a decent amount of unforgettable gags. Now that’s a bargain. 

Verdict: B+

“The Cameraman” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

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