Buster Keaton

“Notfilm,” or how Buster met Beckett

A new documentary reveals the fascinating story behind Samuel Beckett's only movie, "Film," which starred silent comedy icon Buster Keaton

A documentary more than two hours long about the making of a 24-minute movie might seem like overkill, but director Ross Lipman’s “Notfilm” isn’t your typical making-of doc, nor is its subject anything close to a typical movie.

In 1964, five years before he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, playwright Samuel Beckett conceived and wrote the only motion picture of his career. Simply but pretentiously titled “Film,” it starred silent comedy icon Buster Keaton. That collaboration (more of a collision) between these titanic talents of the 20th century, who share a minimalist bent despite laboring in entirely different arenas, is enough to make “Film” a grade-A cinematic curiosity.

By the Brooklyn Bridge, shooting a scene from FILM BY SAMUEL BECKETT taken in the summer of 1964. Beckett is seen on the far left in his only trip to America, specifically to shoot the film. Director Alan Schneider is wearing the baseball cap and glasses and Buster Keaton is wearing his porkpie hat.

By the Brooklyn Bridge, shooting a scene from FILM BY SAMUEL BECKETT taken in the summer of 1964. Beckett is seen on the far left in his only trip to America, specifically to shoot the film. Director Alan Schneider is wearing the baseball cap and glasses and Buster Keaton is wearing his porkpie hat.

As Lipman’s serious, engaging study (or “kino-essay,” as he calls it) reveals, the connective tissue binding Beckett’s effort to his own past and future work, as well as to the history of movies, is intricate and beguiling. The producer of “Film” was renegade publisher Barney Rosset, who had brought D.H. Lawrence and Henry Miller to American readers. The cinematographer was Boris Kaufman, younger brother to Russian avant-gardist Dziga Vertov and Oscar-winner for “On the Waterfront.” And its star, of course, embodied a comically stoic response to an absurd world as much as Beckett’s best-known creations did in “Waiting for Godot.”

Continues…

News & Notes goes to the movies

Classics from Buster Keaton, Ruben Ostlund, and Akira Kurosawa

How about a quick News & Notes, just to get the heart pumping this week? This one has distinctly film focus—from Buster Keaton to Ruben Ostlund and back to Akira Kurasawa. And some of it involves live, Oregon-composed music, which is always in order!

The Eugene alt.string band Mood Area 52 will supply the live soundtrack to the Buster Keaton silent comedy classic, Our Hospitality at the Hollywood Theatre on Thursday. Some of the movie was shot in Oregon (where Keaton would return for the even more classic The General in 1926, which was shot in Cottage Grove). For the soundtrack, Mood Area 52 is dipping into classic ragtime music in addition to its own versions of John Fahey, Reverend Gary Davis, and Leo Kottke among others, per the press release.

Buster Keaton was a genius of the visual joke.

Buster Keaton was a genius of the visual joke.

While we’re talking about movies, the Northwest Film Center is presenting a three-film mini-festival of movies by the Swedish director, Ruben Ostlund, including his new film, Force Majeure, which won the Grand Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard competition at the Cannes Film Festival and was Sweden’s submission for this years’ Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. If you are doing some Spring Break skiing, you might want to see it after its Thursday and Saturday screenings.

At this point, I count on the website Open Culture to expand my horizons, for example this introduction to Tony Zhou and his video series Every Frame a Picture. It’s a short video essay into the movement in the films of Akira Kurosawa. “A Kurosawa movie moves like no one else’s,” Zhou says in his video. “Each one is a master class in different types of motion and also ways to combine them.” I love his riff on how static Hollywood films seem in comparison. Delightful!

Akira Kurosawa – Composing Movement from Tony Zhou on Vimeo.