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Buster Keaton

The original dare from the Silent era

A dead pan expression apart from his sad and soulful highlighted eyes, floppy shoes, clothes a tad tight, with a porkpie hat was his trademark. While Charlie Chaplin won our hearts with his comedy, Harold Lloyd had us barely able to hold our seams with his slapstick, but Buster Keaton would leave us dumbstruck with his slapstick, and stunts wondering at his sheer physical agility. Film historians have discovered Joseph Frank “Buster Keaton” only in the 1960’s although he was an iconic actor director from the silent era. Keaton himself was relieved to see that his films were not all lost, but observed, “The applause is nice, but too late.” In Keaton’s first film, a 1917 two-reeler called The Butcher Boy starring Roscoe (“Fatty”) Arbuckle, Keaton was extreme slapstick, with the young actor getting subjected to range of abuses, from being submerged in molasses to getting bit by a dog.

In 1920 Keaton struck out on his own as a filmmaker, first with a series of two-reelers that included now classics such as The Cameraman, Steamboat Bill, Jr, and The Passionate Plumber. Keaton was the full force behind his films, writing and directing them as well as starring and performing stunts. n 1923 Keaton started making full features such as The Three Ages (1923) and Sherlock, Jr. (1924). This marked the period of Keaton’s finest creations. At the height of his career, Keaton experienced the same kind of celebrity statuses Charlie Chaplin and enjoyed huge economic rewards as well. He clowns his way through the film with his sad and evocative eyes that will haunt film buffs over generations.

Sherlock Jr.

USA / B&W / 45 min / Silent / 1924

Direction:Buster Keaton

Keaton plays a meek cinema projectionist who dreams of becoming a famous detective, like Sherlock Holmes. In love with a beautiful girl (Kathryn McGuire), he presents her with chocolates and a ring, but another suitor (Ward Crane) also vies for her affections. The projectionist's romantic rival is a deceitful sort of person, who has stolen a watch from the girl's home and pawned it to buy her a larger box of candy. He then slips the pawn ticket into the projectionist's pocket and subsequently is found by the police. Falsely accused of the crime by his girlfriend's family, the heartbroken young man falls asleep at work while exhibiting a movie. He dreams that he walks into the screen and interacts with the film's characters, he the debonair and renowned detective Sherlock Jr. who faces danger and solves the crime.

Seven Chances

USA / B&W / 56 min / Silent / 1925
Direction:Buster Keaton

Seasons come and seasons go, but Jimmie Shannon is unable to tell Mary Jones how much he loves her. Jimmie learns he will inherit a fortune if he marries. By 7 p.m . Aware that he has only a few hours left to wed, Jimmie hurries to Mary's house to propose. Mary quickly accepts, but then changes her mind. The film then takes Jimmie, as well as the viewer, on an absolutely hilarious roller-coaster ride

The General

USA / B&W / 75 min / Silent / 1926
Direction:Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman

Train engineer Johnnie Gray has two loves: his engine, the General and his girl, Annabelle. While he’s visiting Annabelle, American Civil War breaks out. Annabelle’s father and brother leave to be first in line to enlist,jonbut Johnnie takes a shortcut and beats everyone in the crowd. But the army won’t take him: he’s too valuable as a train engineer. Johnnie is not told this reason and is forcibly ejected from the office when he tries to enlist surreptitiously. Annabelle coldly informs Johnnie that she will not speak to him again until he is in uniform. A year later, a Union spy plots to steal the General and take it north, burning bridges and cutting off the Southern supply line in its wake. The story is all about how Johnnie foils this attempt and gets back his love.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

UK-USA / Colour / 99 min / English /1966
Film, directed by Richard Lester, features Buster Keaton in his last motion picture role.

This 1966 farce musical comedy film is based on the stage musical of the same name. It was inspired by the farces of the ancient Roman playwright Plautus (251-183 B.C.) – specifically Pseudolus, Miles Gloriosus and Mostellaria. The film, directed by Richard Lester, features Buster Keaton in his last motion picture role. The film tells the bawdy story of a slave named Pseudolus. He is the laziest slave in Rome, but has one wish - to purchase his freedom. When his master and mistress leave for the day he finds out that the young master has fallen in love with a virgin in the house of Lycus, a slave dealer specializing in beautiful women. Pseudolus concocts a deal in which he will be freed if he can procure the girl for young Hero. Of course, it can't be that simple as everything begins to go wrong.
Miklos Jancso

One of the masters of widescreen composition and elaborately choreographed long-take sequence shots, Miklos Jancso has been described as the most important Hungarian director of all (Mira and A. J. Liehm) and the key Hungarian filmmaker of the sound era (Jonathan Rosenbaum). His fervid, transfixing, highly stylized and intensely formalist films are noted for their balletic, brutal study of repression, rebellion and revolution. Hungarian film-maker Miklos Jancso, who graduated in law and took courses in art history and ethnography, also served the Second World War and was for a brief period of time, a prisoner of war. After the war, Jancso enrolled in the Academy of Theatre and Film Arts in Budapest. He received his Diploma in Film Directing in 1950. Jancso’s debut feature, The Bells Have Gone to Rome was released after the 1956 anti-Soviet uprising which left hundreds of Hungarians dead or imprisoned and thousands refugees. Right from this first film, Jancso expressed his interest in war as a platform for working out his ideas. In My Way Home, a Hungarian youth is arrested, interned, released, arrested again, and sent to tend a herd of cows together with a young Russian soldier – the two transcend barriers of language as well as nationality to become close friends.

Jancso’s cinema does not conform to narrative or psychological conventions, but opens other areas that are usually found in the screen musical. His films are elaborate ballets, exploring anonymity, power, humiliation and the senselessness of war often by using the Russians themselves as his subjects as in the Red and the White. Tyranny is everywhere, and men and women survive in groups, often singing and dancing. Sometimes the groups split up and realign, moving in different directions, while the camera weaved in and out unobtrusively, tracking the characters.

Jancso, who’s Red Psalm was awarded at Cannes, was also honoured with a special prize for his lifetime work at the same festival. Brave, committed, transporting, infuriating, harrowing and latterly hilarious, Jancso’s work remains a true gift to cinema.

 

 


The Round-Up

Hungary / B&W / 90 min / 1966

Direction:Miklos Jancso

Miklos Jancso creates a sublime, provocative, and haunting examination of moral bankruptcy and human cruelty in The Round-up. Following the quelling of Lajos Kossuth's1848 revolution against Habsburg rule in Hungary, prison camps were set up for people suspected of being Kossuth's supporters. Around 20 years later, some members of highwayman Sandor Rozsa's guerrilla band, believed to be some of Kossuth's last supporters, are known to be interned among the prisoners in a camp and the means at identification were mental and physical torture and trickery. When one of the guerrillas, Janos Gajdar, is identified as a murderer by an old woman, he attempts to bargain for his life by acting as an informant and in the process, initiates a cycle of betrayal, violence, and deceit. Through languid and sweeping pans, minimal composition, and oppressive environment that reflect the emotional vacuity, hopelessness and isolation of the detained prisoners, The Round-up presents an understated, yet harrowing portrait of spiritual desolation, betrayal and existential limbo.

Electra, My Love

Hungary / Colour / 70 min / 1974

Direction:Miklos Jancso

Electra has vowed revenge for the murder of her father. She waits for the return of her brother, who will exact justice

The Confrontation / Fényes szelek

Hungary / Colour/ 80 min / 1969

Direction:Miklos Jancso

This is Jancso’s first film in colour—muted, dusky colour punctuated by the vivid red of a boy’s shirt and of a streaming banner, with its suggestion of Hungarian bloodshed. It tells the story of protest and rebellion in 1947 Hungary where the Communist Party had taken power

Red Psalm/Még kér a nép

Hungary / Colour / 87 min / 1972

Direction:Miklos Jancso

Direction Miklos Jancso recounts quite poetically the story of a peasant uprising on an estate in Hungary in the 1890s. It examines the nature of revolt, and the issues of morality and violence.Staging maypole dances, folk chants, and other mass rites instead of tending to fields of grain, the strikers' processional ceremonies are tracked by Jancso in less than 30 elegantly orchestrated shots and tensely observed by bailiffs, clergy, and eventually government troops.

Silence and Cry/Csend és kiáltás

Hungary/ B & W / 73 min / 1968

Direction:Miklos Jancso

Silence and Cry is set after the fall of the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic of 1919. A young Red soldier, fleeing the anti-Communist manhunt, takes refuge at the isolated farm of a peasant family. His reluctant hosts are already under police scrutiny for being political suspects. The local White commander is aware of the soldier’s presence but, for personal reasons, keeps it a secret. The soldier discovers that the farmer is being poisoned, slowly, by his wife and her sister. As a personal war is waging within his own consciousness over morality and self-preservation, Istvan must decide whether to remain silent about the women's devious secret and preserve his own life, or to report their heinous crime to the Royal Gendarme, which would also mean certain death for him.

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