John A. Douglas

Living Passionately In the World of the Moving Image

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As a general rule anything that interferes with your concentration while watching a movie is an enemy of the storyteller who is using film to tell his story. That’s a fairly obvious statement as we all know that those nitwits who amuse themselves by belching at an important part of the movie does irreparable damage to the storyteller-audience interrelationship.

Some times the content of a film, if not handled properly will cause audience members to pull away from the story. That happened to me in Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.” There’s only so much torture I can watch so at some point I pulled away from that film and Mel was unable to draw me back. (Why doesn’t Mel Gibson put on his leg brace and bring Mad Max back to life?)

I had a similar problem when I saw “Safety Last” with Harold Lloyd. In that film Lloyd has a scene in which he’s hanging on the hands of a large outdoor clock some 6 or 8 stories above the busy streets of downtown Los Angeles. It looked to me as if the actor was in a danger that could end his life. So instead of enjoying the comedy, I was concerned about the actor even though intellectually I know that Lloyd must have survived the making of the film.

Which brings me to “The General” which we will soon be seeing as part of Celebrating the Classics at Celebration! Cinema North. “The General” stars Buster Keaton whose co-star is a large steam-driven locomotive. In the film there are some jaw-dropping stunts performed by Buster Keaton on and around the locomotive. Like Jackie Chan, Keaton was well known for taking chances to please an audience.

So if you go out for coffee after the show you might discuss “The General” in the context of whether or not Keaton gave us too much  I don’t happen to think so but I am willing to listen to other thoughts on the subject.

“The General” play September 1 and 3 at 1:30 and 5:45 pm at Celebration! Cinema North.

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