Notes on Short Film

Lengthy diatribe on brief cinematic experience.

The Chemist (1936)

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Buster Keaton is renowned in the archive of early American cinema for daring train scenes, unbelievable gags, and the ability to go beyond what people imagined film could do. The narrative quality of The Chemist exemplifies how far film had come in just a few decades. With the inclusion of dialogue, Keaton executes an absorbing plot, holding the audience through a longer “feature” film that we may still classify as a short today. The official running time is nineteen minutes. In that short time, Keaton includes unprecedented special effects with the main character’s growing powders and explosive powders as well as the physical gags audiences of the time expected in a picture show. The chemist of the title is the classic comedic character of the clueless smart guy – the character who’s obliviousness gets him into Vaudevillian hijinks, but he’s able to outsmart a group of mobsters in the end. This film directed by Al Christie is proof positive that Keaton and his peers set the standard for thousands of films to come.

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Written by Alisa Hathaway

February 13, 2011 at 10:00 pm

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