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The new economic power behind the film industry gave the major comic stars of the 1910s and 1920s the ability to produce feature length films. which also transcended the barriers of language. Man fetishizing machine is a common theme throughout cinematic 2 .” (1994. Keaton’s was just as frequently directed at himself.” (Belton 1994. 175) Chaplain’s character embodied the prevalent mood of the time in the sense that he bridged the borders of old Victorian culture and the new American Dream. 1994. It was during this time that the American film industry found its roots in the Hollywood production studios that still financially dominate Western Film today. Together they transformed early 20th Century slapstick comedy “into a form of self-expression” (Belton 1994.103) In Chaplain’s 1921 film The Kid this is particularly evident through the constant struggle with the policeman and absurd use of authority. and the movement towards materialism and sexual freedom gave rise to a new wave of investment for one of America’s newest industries: cinema. 175) through which their acts would arise from the “unique nature of their screen characters. p.” (Belton. As Belton argues. This is where slapstick meets self-expression. p. Its exaggerated actions replaced dialogue prior to the sound film revolution. Belton describes him as a “world-famous… universal cinematic symbol for our common humanity. his engine and his fiancée. Charlie Chaplain developed the screen character of The Tramp.” (1994. p. 175) The silent nature of 1920s cinema lent well to melodrama due to its ability to transcend the barriers of language. 175) In Buster Keaton’s The General (1926) he has two loves. The emergence of welfare capitalism. “much of Chaplin’s slapstick was often aimed at others. As an outsider like Voltaire’s Candide he could critique in all directions. Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd. The Tramp’s “hunger and homelessness made him the defiant opponent of all arbitrary authority – especially policemen. The three pioneers of this period were Charlie Chaplin. p. The satirical caricature of a doctor ordering The Kid away from his loving father to a workhouse is Chaplin’s frustration manifested on film.The broken bones of World War I and the economic depression of 1920-21 marked a turning point for American society. p. Chaplin himself met this reality at the age of seven.
” (Deleuze. Furthermore. it’s life. p. anything that happens before or after is just waiting. 1983. 176). p.history. “When you´re racing. where all is reconciled. This lends itself well to Keaton’s mechanical. the escalator in The Floorwalker (1916) or a Murphy bed in One A. (1916). Later in Modern Times (1936) Chaplin is made a victim of mechanised industrialisation. In The General the machine takes the form of a locomotive.M. be that the locomotive. 173) Through this we see Keaton’s genuine originality in giving what Deleuze calls Keaton’s “large form” and burlesque (as opposed to Chaplin’s “small form”) (1983. his hero is “like a miniscule dot encompassed by an immense and catastrophic milieu.” (Belton. be that the revolving door in The Cure (1917). from Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising (1963) to Steve McQueen’s racing axiom in Le Mans. pp. in The Kid the automobile is used as a tool in delivering the child from the mother to The Tramp. 1994. allow for an array of errors with the knowledge that if any of the gags had not gone to plan. (1928). It becomes clear that “while Chaplin rejected the modern world. the raw power and danger of the machines of The General. or a canon.”(1971) In these films the machine is an immense character without which the film could not function even on a basic level. one can see that the comedy is not set against machine-induced suspense. In The Kid however. Chaplin’s use of machinery is microscopic in that it becomes a tool. 169-177). Belton pins this on Chaplin’s resistance to the modern world (1994. Keaton embraced it. they would have resulted in death or destruction. Finally the automobile carries The Tramp to The Kid’s new home.I Deleuze argues this reconciliation between the large form and burlesque is done “against 3 . More often than not. To see the machine as a tool. Keaton’s co-star was a machine. but pure human-made emotion. The locomotive’s speed allows for Keaton’s simultaneously decelerated and accelerated gags. p. 175). Then in the fantastical roof chase as it carries away The Kid towards an orphanage. cerebral process of comedy making. in a transformation-space. This is even more evident when a house collapses in a cyclone narrowly missing Keaton in Steamboat Bill Jr. not only is Keaton’s hero subject to an immense machine. Like the Porsche 917s in Le Mans.
Through Chaplin’s comedy we are unified to his humanity.” (Cook. Keaton creates an intricate mis-en-scène labyrinth within which he focuses a gag on the most minute of detail for a far-reaching effect. p. as in Keaton’s.” (Deleuze 1983. p. The emotion between father and son in The Kid is as serious and as powerful as De Sica’s 1948 neo-realist masterpiece The Bicycle Thief despite the melodramatic void separating them. to saving his life with a broken sword to yet another doomed canon gag that turns into a success at the final second. 1981. nearly always on the edge of danger and against the world. the empathy from which compassion holds its roots. That is not to say that either one of them are incapable of appealing to both. is in its entanglement with the tragic. Having a burning canon pointed towards you or finding a child in a pile of rubbish and not knowing what to do with it is no laughing matter for the involved party. 171) There is a realism that shines through the laughter like a diamond bullet cutting silence. We must remember the cinematic apparatus to better understand this. Cook too agues this point but adds that sentimentality does not play as important a part in Keaton’s work as it 4 . “Chaplin’s genius lies in… making us laugh as much as moving us.all odds” (1983. p. 173. However. Keaton’s attention to such detail helps to illuminate Cook’s statement that “Keaton always maintained that comedy must be funny without being ridiculous. “as a disinterested spectator: many a drama will turn into a comedy” (Bergson 1900/ 1911. encountering and evading the Union army yet finding it impossible to remove a bear trap. it is to say that this is the realm in which they have mastered. p. We can see this in the vast American landscapes and challenges that Keaton’s hero overcomes. through Keaton’s comedy we are unified to his machine. 12) The genius in Chaplin’s comedy. 206) The cerebral comedy of Keaton is somewhat analytic in its mechanization and can be analyzed as such to a greater extent than the emotional comedy of Chaplin. The most beautiful of moments in Chaplin’s films cannot be analyzed with words meaningfully. and for this reason he took great pains to make his films credible in dramatic as well as comic terms. for they find themselves located not upon language but upon what is mystical.).
Yet death is not an event in life. arises not in words. Chaplin and Keaton have found themselves inseparable from one another despite difference in style. p. or not to be. The beauty of laughter is in its transcendent properties. the unspeakable. Slap-stick laughs in the face of fate.” (1942. 208).” (1952.” Death cannot be separated from Keaton and Chaplin’s humour as they are face to face with it.60) he does so because Vladimir asks him to say he’s happy “even if it’s not true. He painstakingly made the film by shooting more takes per scene than in any other film of his career. Kierkegaard and so on. Film. not because it has been solved. at least one that can be meaningfully spoken of. like Beckett. Camus’ myth starts with what is essentially a reformulation of Hamlet’s soliloquy (Shakespeare 1603. the metaphysical. that is the question:/ Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer/ The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune. The laughter in Chaplin and Keaton. as did Keaton. however it was eventually handed to Keaton. Chaplin’s The Kid followed his own loss of a child. and humour seems to be too. despite Camus denying Sisyphus the hope that denies the absurd from the works of Dostoyevsky. p. in particular the tramps Estragon and Vladimir in Waiting for Godot (1952). 5 .II The slapstick comedy of Chaplin and Keaton is an obvious precursor to Beckett’s. 265) “To be. appearance and attitude. now that we are laughing?” The beauty of Beckett is in the vanishing of the problem. p. 593) even if it’s not true. Kafka. Beckett unlike Camus offers no solution.does in Chaplin’s (1981. Chaplain echoed the absurdity of a situation through comedy. but because it was never a problem as such.60) This is Beckett’s answer to Camus’ solution that “one must imagine Sisyphus happy. and escapes meaninglessness by creating values for himself while saying no to hope. now that we are happy?” (1952. p. Chaplin surmounts machinery with scorn. When Estragon poses the question “What do we do./ Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles. But what solutions do Chaplin and Keaton have to offer? Can it be “What do we do. and escapes through laughter. His original choice for the lead was Charlie Chaplin. just as Camus’ Sisyphus surmounts his fate with scorn. In 1963 Samuel Beckett wrote his only screenplay. p. We have come to see that discourse on the absurd is fixated on the unknown.
not by a solution. They are what is mystical. for it metamorphoses time and time again. prop. We can speak of the shortest distance between two points as being a straight line. logic. p. will bring new laughter each time. or celluloid reel penetrated by light onto a screen. but through forgetting the problem. so too the world must be seen not in its physical constituents that exist as a fact.” than any eternal humanIII. with its unchanging binary code flickering in a digital machine. William Blake is no more naturally blessed “To see the world in a grain of sand/ And a heaven in a wildflower. in the shadow land. S. but we cannot speak of what it is that constitutes laughter. indeed. for “there are. And comedy works too upon this hidden terrain. we can just learn not think but to laugh. 6. one must feel and live through it again and again. They make themselves manifest. 70) One cannot understand happiness and laughter through language.but in between the cogs of the machine.” (Wittgenstein 1921. The very same film. Like T.522) 6 . never the same as before. things that cannot be put into words. and we can say that is true for everyone. but as the extent to which we can express them. and when we don’t think the problem solves itself. Like each “mineral flake” of Sisyphus’s “night-filled mountain” that forms a world. Eliot said “Between the emotion/ And the response/ Falls the shadow” (1925. mathematics or physics. Every laugh is a new laugh signified from the same fact with a new human becoming. as Camus and Sartre sought to provide. The problem of the absurd void vanishes.
Translated from French by John Ashbery (A dual language edition). 18. And Selected Essays. Published 1987. The Plague. Published 1956. Wittgenstein. (1921) Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. amongst others. Exile and The Kingdom.. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota. Published 2011. Published 1994.tufts. L. Abingdon: Routledge. Eliot: Collected Poems. A.org/reference/subject/ethics/kant/enlightenment. The Fall. (1994) American Cinema/ American Culture. translated and edited by Mary J. (1803) Blake Poems. Tomlinson and B.edu/wiki/eBooks/. who had commissioned the screenplay. was met with an answer: “Mr. S. Chaplin and Keaton’s use of small form and burlesque in relation to the action-image.uci. New York City: McGraw-Hill.04.S. Chaplin doesn’t read scripts”. Bergson.htm [last accessed 14th February 2012] Rimbaud. H. (1983) Cinema 1. W. (1925) The Hollow Man from T.marxists. Cambridge University Press. 2006) As Chaplin was unavailable. (1942) The Myth of Sisyphus. F. Gregor. London: Grove Atlantic Inc. Beckett. Published 1994.. London: Everyman’s Library. II After reaching his private secretary. Pears and B. Auguries of Innocence. Translated from French by H. Knopf. London: Faber and Faber Limited. R. J. Translated from German by D. Manchester: Carcanet. Issue 52. Laughter. (1784) An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment? [online] [source: Immanuel Kant.edu/hopper/image?img=1998. London: Everyman’s Library. which discuss. Rosset. F.. (1886) Illuminations. (1952) Waiting for Godot. (Talmer. Habberjam. Online available at intersci. Published 2010. Shakespeare http://www. McGuinness.pdf 1900/ 1911 Cook Deleuze.perseus. S. 1996] Available at: http://www.0773 Camus. Translated from French by A. These pages cover the chapter: Small form and burlesque. Blake. ‘A film of few words and one Keaton’ in Downtown Express. A. Alan Schneider was sent on a hunt for Keaton.ss. Eliot. T.BIBLIOGRAPHY Belton./Bergson/Laughter%20Bergson. J. Kant. Practical Philosophy. I. Published 1986. Vol. Introduction by Bertrand Russell. Published 1975. I 7 . G.
for eternal refers to timelessness – be that the limitless imagination and hence infinity in expression.” III The eternal human lives in the present. broke and alone./And eternity in an hour.“ 8 . Keaton’s first-words to Schneider were: “Yes. I accept the offer. as Blake says – “Hold infinity in the palm of your hand.Schnieder eventually found him beat up.
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