Buster Keatons The Cameraman

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The Cameraman (Rough Draft) The Cameraman (1928), an MGM Buster Keaton feature, is one of the last truly great feature films of the silent era. From the artistic balance it finds between the simplicity of an all-too-familiar storyline and the complexity of technique and cinematography, to the very-entertaining and captivating performances of its actors, the film that was nearly lost to the annals of motion-picture history is a multi-faceted gem that is joyous to watch. Simplicity is one of the big keys to the success of The Cameraman. The simple plot is of the age-old yet noble type (“hero-sees-girl, is-knocked-off-feet, goes-to-great-lengths-to-be-noticed, getting-in-much-trouble-en-route”). It has Buster trying to get a break as a cameraman into the newsreel department of a famous studio (MGM, and win the affections of the office receptionist, Sally, played by a beautiful Marceline Day. His endeavors land him in all sorts of uproarious situations, including several hilarious altercations with the romantic rival, a snooty “made” newsman played by Harry Goodwin. The thematic elements stay simple as well. Pungent with cynicism, irony rears its humorous head on more than one occasion. These bits of the film are delivered with perfect timing, laced with a little seriousness. One such instance is near the latter end of movie when Buster, in a daring stunt, saves Sally from drowning. He leaves her unconscious on the shore momentarily while he rushes into a pharmacy mere yards away to get something to help her. During those few moments, she awakens, and Buster’s rival, who had abandoned her to drown in order to save his own skin, happens upon her just as she opens her eyes. She thinks he has saved her from certain peril and Buster emerges from the drug store with bandages and the like just in time to see them stroll off into the sunset, arm in arm. Another such moment comes when Buster has gone through hell and high water to obtain footage of a gang war going on in the city streets, only to find that he had never loaded film into his camera. Uncomplicated twists such as these lend to the easy, fun watching that The Cameraman is. There is no profoundly deep symbolism to be found, and the lack of any attempt at thought-provoking societal depictions really lend to a successful package. This is supposed to be comedy, and a marvelous one it is. Though simple, the plot of The Cameraman is perfectly constructed.

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