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Saturday, June 7, 2008

W. C. FIELDS: SIX SHORT FILMS (1915-33)

Skip THE POOL SHARK/'15, a wasted, though silent, opportunity at documenting Fields in his physical prime, but rejoice in the rest of these early ‘Talkie’ shorts where Fields is seen perfroming some of the stage material he used between his silent film days and his return to Hollywood. The first time you watch these oddities, you may find yourself staring blankly at the screen hunting for conventional laughs and not finding them. And then, returning a couple of years on to the same material, fighting off uncontrollable fits of hiccup-inducing guffaws from the very same items. Fields expanded some of these gags & ideas in his features, but here he’s at his rawest, meanest, Dadaist(est), lewdest & purest. In the annals of American comedians, his popularity & influence on European artists ranging from Beckett to Bunuel is second only to Buster Keaton, and you'll see why. (Check out THE PHARMACIST for a direct precursor for a gag in Bunuel's THE DISCRETE CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE/'72.) But be warned, those who don't 'get' Fields will be baffled.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Is THE FATAL GLASS OF BEER the greatest American film of all time? Yet, it's hardly a film at all.

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