Deadpan Features: Buster Restored

Integrated into his family’s vaudeville act at age three, little Joseph Keaton was deployed as “The Human Mop,” wielded by his father Joe on, around, and over the stage. The lad took to the gig with aplomb but noted that his own yukking it up mid-flight didn’t draw as many laughs as when he was less responsive. So he would freeze up his features and this demeanor would serve him well—as would his nickname-turned-stage name Buster—through a brilliant career. “The Great Stone Face” has been an incalculable influence on the art of comedy ever since he first strolled onscreen in 1917. A genius at conceiving and executing gags ranging from trompe l’œil surrealism to eruptive chaos, he assimilated the mechanics of moviemaking and jump-started them. Prolific even by the fast-paced standards of the silents era, he would act, write, direct, produce, and edit, having survived filming the risky stunts that he had brainstormed for himself. Timed to the debut of Peter Bogdanovich’s new documentary The Great Buster: A Celebration, we present premieres of digital restorations of a selection of Keaton features and shorts. Rediscover or delight for the first time in Keaton’s fearless physical feats and breathtaking comedic stunts that make today’s digital spectacles and stuntwork pale by comparison.

Restorations by Cohen Media Group in collaboration with the Cineteca Bologna

Past Screenings