Screened/Mcr are back with another evening of silent cinema, and this time they’re showing one of Buster Keaton’s most charming feature films with a live accompaniment by pianist Dairius Battiwalla. As with all of Screened/Mcr’s events, there will be an introductory talk – this time by author and lecturer Keith Withall, who will provide an brief introduction to silent cinema before taking an in depth look at the main event, Keaton’s Sherlock Jr.
The film stars Keaton – who also directs – as a inept, lovesick projectionist who falls asleep only to dream his way through the cinema screen and into a role as the titular detective. For a film approaching its hundredth birthday, the playful self-reflexivity is astonishing. Keaton is completely plugged into the purposes and possibilities of cinema – which audience member doesn’t imagine themselves the hero of the movie? – but he also knows how to thrill a crowd. Indeed, Sherlock Jr.’s conceptual dexterity is only outdone by the nimble star’s physical prowess.
Keaton had grown up being chucked around in the family vaudeville show and boy, does he know how to bounce, fall and roll. There are gags aplenty as the film throws the great stone-faced comedian through a series of physical trials and tribulations, up buildings and down, as his character’s dreamed movie detective works to foil a villain — played by the same actor who acts as Keaton’s dishonest love-rival in the film’s non-dream bookends. Sweet, smart and relentlessly entertaining, Sherlock Jr. should prove a treat for silent movie buffs and curious film fans alike.