The following is one of the entries from my 100 Greatest English-Language Films list, which I invite you to visit on this site if you haven’t already done so. — Dennis
Sherlock Jr. is Buster Keaton’s freshest, most captivating comedy. Keaton directed from an inspired script by Clyde Bruckman, Jean Havez and Joseph Mitchell. He also starred and edited. More than any other American film, Sherlock Jr. tests cinema’s capacity, by tricks of editing, to delight audiences by seeming to obliterate confinements of space and time.
The character Keaton winningly plays—for want of another name, let’s call him Buster—is a projectionist who seems flypapered by bad luck, including in romance. One day at work, in order to solve the crime in the movie he is running and thus prove his prowess, he walks into the screen and becomes part of the movie’s action. Buster is now Sherlock Jr., master detective.
By skillful use of back projection, director Keaton zaps Buster from one setting to another in an instant. He has Buster, being chased, jump head-first into an outfit and emerge fully dressed, in disguise, as a woman; and he devises what remains to date the most exhilarating road chase in all of cinema.
Above all, Buster wants to impress his girl. What’s an inexperienced boy to do when he wants to kiss his girl? At the close of the film, when Sherlock Jr. is back to being Buster in reality and Buster is running another film, a romance rather than a detective mystery, he gets timely help. A love scene in the film-within-the-film offers pointers and lends courage. As he makes his big move, Buster’s eyes dart back and forth between the educative image onscreen and his beloved in his arms—for us, also a screen image. Art imitates life imitates art, and the movies have helped one more soul disclose his feelings and realize his dreams.
How to kiss? Sherlock Jr. has cracked another case!
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