The brilliance of 1920s cinema, is that the movies were a novelty art form, before there were any rules the norm was experimentation because there was nothing to base the art on.
The 20s saw plenty of the experimentation in camera and editing technique, more naturalistic performances, increasing narrative ambition.
Few cinematic experiences are as joyous as watching Keaton's films with fresh eyes. His incredible films during the 1920s are revelations, filled with clever social insights and, of course, an array of how-did-he-just-do-that stunt work. His screen presence remains one of cinema's most poetic: the hapless everyman whose indefatigable and reckless impulsiveness remains the source of great inspiration and comedy for contemporary viewers. The moods and emotions conveyed resonate today just as they did in the early 20th century, a testament to Keaton's keen understanding of the human experience.
Cinema geek & provocateur filmmaker Fabrizio Federico lists his Top 5 Buster Keaton movies:
1. The Navigator (1924) I loved this film so much when I was a kid, especially his miniature sized cannon that he uses on the cannibals. Two socialites get stuck on a ship and have to survive. Its priceless seeing him covered in a bed sheet thrashing about looking like a ghost, plus the films also features the first underwater sequence ever filmed, which took four weeks to film due to the early technology. Because the water was too blurry under the sea they had to go to Lake Tahoe which is famous for having crystal clear water.
2. One Week (1920) This was Keaton's first film made on his own. Inspired by a documentary he saw about how you could purchase a house-lot and then build your own portable home in a week. I love how with Buster you never knew what was coming next, he'd trick you into feeling secure then pull the rug from under your feet - BAM!! The way the train misses his house on the track, only for the second train coming in the other direction to smash into it,must have cracked-up those 1920's audiences with it's unpredictability.
3. The General (1927) Based on a true story from the Civil War and filmed in Oregon. Using real gun-powder they accidentally set fire to a forest during shooting, which delayed the production. Although he was called ''The Great Stone Face'' he brings the audience into his characters pride, panic, frustration and yearning, all the while performing miraculous stunts that even Jackie Chan would envy. My fav improv bit is when he throws a piece of wood at the cannon. Between takes he would play baseball on the roof of the locomotives. I still cant believe how bad the film reviews were when it was originally released.
4. The Goat (1921) The gags come thick and fast in this masterpiece as Buster gets mistaken for murderer Dead Shot Dan. It's hilarious when he recognises himself in the huge mug-shot poster on the wall, his reaction is priceless, along with the clay horse falling on him
Cops (1922) As his friend Fatty Arbuckle was on trial, Buster set to work on this keystone-cop kapper which features some phenomenal on-foot chase scenes between Buster and hundreds on police extras, which must have been exhilarating for him to film. He was a sensational athlete having to perform all his own stunts and a very fast sprinter.
5. Sherlock, Jr. (1924) This is Buster's cult movie. A dreamlike masterpiece full of early special effects and the film also works as a thesis on cinemas philosophical wisdom, of how making and watching a movie are linked. He also broke his neck on this film without even realising it until decades later. The scene where he shadows his suspect with incredible comedic timing is still one of his finest moments.
Our Hospitality (1923) His first feature film and also the one where he almost drowned in a river stunt which is in the film. His cameraman filmed the whole accident because Buster never yelled ''cut'' cose he was to busy drowning. He never used scripts, ideas just came to him and he'd follow through with it until he got the sequence right, even if it meant having his stomach pumped after the famous upside down waterfall sequence took many takes to complete.