Monday 17 September 2007

One Week (1920) Buster Keaton

It's Buster Keaton's first solo film after a long apprenticeship under Fatty Arbuckle and he starts off on the right foot: he gets married and Uncle Mike gives the happy couple a house and lot at 99 Apple Street as a wedding present. Naturally not everything goes as planned: the house is a DIY job that arrives in boxes and his delightful wife, played by Sybil Seely, has a former lover intent on sabotaging the construction effort.

I've seen a few of Keaton's films with Fatty Arbuckle and while there's some of the Keaton genius already apparent they're not classics by any stretch of the imagination. However imagination is a very apt word to use here, with Keaton apparently throwing in a whole slew of ideas that he'd been cooking up for some time and now had the status and the budget to use. Quite a few look familiar but from later films, suggesting that this may be the original. The one exception was the helpful cameraman's hand to prevent us from seeing Sybil get out of the bath, obviously inspired by a similar scene in an Arbuckle and Keaton short from three years earlier called Coney Island.

Many are classic physical gags, and often large ones too, including the famous side of a building falling onto Keaton, repeated of course in Steamboat Bill, Jr. It isn't just Keaton that moves here, his house moves too, and often it's both of them together, in amazing synchronisation. It's truly amazing just how great Keaton's timing was. The Electric House owes much to this one, but One Week is hard to beat for sheer insane stuntwork. To release it and The Scarecrow in the same year is astounding.

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