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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

GO WEST (1925)

Sweet-natured and hilarious, this is probably Buster Keaton’s gentlest feature, a pastoral Western with his most unlikely leading lady, Brown Eyes, a Holstein cow. Tossed by fate off a train out West, Buster tumbles his way to a cattle ranch where he’s saved from a charging bull by his new bovine gal pal. (Note Steer P.O.V. shot . . . horns & all!) But, as we all know, cows eventually have to go to market, even Brown Eyes. And it’s up to Buster to make sure the herd arrives on time to save the farm for his boss (and the boss’s cute daughter) while keeping Brown Eyes out of harm’s way. Working in a quieter, lower key than usual, and with less spectacular set pieces or life-threatening stunts, Buster remains astonishingly inventive & funny. He’s simply working more in the manner of ‘close up’ magic; silent film magic. Yet miraculously holding to the standard of realism (well, surrealism) he preferred in his features. Getting herds of cattle thru the streets & shops of L.A. must have been a nightmare, but not as mind-bogglingly impossible as getting a performance out of Holstein that's as expressive as a trained dog. Has it ever been tried again . . . without extensive camera or CGI trickery? And watch for a great moment in a poker game after another player, accused of cheating, pulls a gun and orders Buster to ‘Smile when you say that!’ Buster, who took official story & directing credit on this (he might as well have done the same on all his silent work), makes everything in here look effortless . . . don’t you believe it.

CONTEST: Once more, Buster uses D. W. Griffith’s INTOLERANCE/’16 for gags. While THE THREE AGES/’23 played with its idea of having a similar story play out in different time periods (Pre-Historic; Ancient Rome; Modern Times), here he borrows names: ‘Brown Eyes’ from the Huguenot story of INTOLERANCE, and 'Friendless' from the character called ‘The Friendless One’ in that film’s Modern section. But Buster also steals a famous moment from a later Griffith masterpiece for a funny little gag. Spot it, and the film it comes from to win a MAKSQUIBS Write-Up of your choosing.

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