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Film1965

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  • 4.1
Nobel Prize-winning playwright Samuel Beckett's lone work for projected cinema was entitled archetypally, FILM, and grew from Berkeley's pronouncement, essi et percipi: "To be is to be perceived." Yet Beckett's ontological concerns have less to do with the plastic medium than the nature of recorded and projected images. FILM is in essence a chase film; arguably the craziest committed to celluloid. It's a chase between camera and pursued image that finds existential dread embedded in the very apparatus of the movies. The link to cinema's essence is evident in the casting, as the chased object is none other than an aged Buster Keaton, who was understandably befuddled at Beckett and director Alan Schneider's imperative that he keep his face hidden from the camera's gaze. The archetypal levels resonate further in the exquisite cinematography of Academy Award®-winner Boris Kaufman, whose brothers Dziga Vertov and Mikhail Kaufman created the legendary self-reflective masterpiece MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA (with the latter in the titular role). Commissioned and produced by Grove Press's Barney Rosset, FILM is at once the product of a stunningly all-star assembly of talent and a cinematic conundrum that asks more questions than it answers. - Ross Lipman

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3 members like this review

This is Buster Keaton's last stand. The great Poker Face was literally at Death's door (Keaton was 69 here, but he looked 20 years older), and while it is not the original intent of Samuel Beckett's story, the film seems to convey a feeling that the end was near for Keaton. Here is an old man running away from life, unable to look at himself or his past, on the lookout, it would seem for the Grim Reaper. There is a brief interlude with cat and a dog that harkens back to the glory days of silent comedy, but otherwise, this is a haunting little film (some of the images seem to foreshadow David Lynch's "Eraserhead" a decade later), masterfully shot by Boris Kaufman. "Film" is a fascinating coda for a screen legend.

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Member Reviews (6)

81629.small
top reviewer

This is Buster Keaton's last stand. The great Poker Face was literally at Death's door (Keaton was 69 here, but he looked 20 years older), and while it is not the original intent of Samuel Beckett's story, the film seems to convey a feeling that the end was near for Keaton. Here is an old man running away from life, unable to look at himself or his past, on the lookout, it would seem for the Grim Reaper. There is a brief interlude with cat and a dog that harkens back to the glory days of silent comedy, but otherwise, this is a haunting little film (some of the images seem to foreshadow David Lynch's "Eraserhead" a decade later), masterfully shot by Boris Kaufman. "Film" is a fascinating coda for a screen legend.

3 members like this review

The man. Himself!

Beckett's only foray into film is characteristically antsy, skittish, full of angles.

Thanks for this one, Fandor.

2 members like this review
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A work like this is beyond criticism—like Un Chien Andalou, the Wizard of Oz, or the first ten minutes of Up. You don't have to love it; you don't even have to like it. It exists—that is all, and that is enough.

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aka SAMUEL BECKETT'S FILM, a great work of existentialism starring Buster Keaton. Screened at Pacific Film Archive, a long time ago, this one is burned into my memory long after other films have faded.

Keaton plus Becket, a match made in an existential dream. Running man: from his past toward death.

Running away? Running towards? All we see is his back as he races to some destination knocking down sweet (blind?) old ladies, dashing down stairs, then upstairs, checking his pulse, finally locking himself into a room, his room. There is life in here, animals, a mirror, a painting, a window. He tosses out the cat, dog, covers the bird, mirror, window, tears up a drawing of himself, (I assume) rips apart photos of family he pulls from the tattered briefcase he's been clutching to his side. The camera work illuminates with out explaining. It lingers on the bare rectangle, the empty pet beds, tattered blinds, lace curtains, the decaying walls, the single dirty bed with its one old blanket, the rocking chair. What do the passerbys see when they stare into the camera and scream - themselves?

When Keaton finally turns around and eye meets eye, lens meets lens, he doesn't react. Reminds me of Tarkovsky's Sculpting Time. Thanks Fandor for presenting this one.

Great. I never thought I would get a chance to see this. Thank you Fandor.