Peter Bogdanovich has just spent a good chunk of the past few years rummaging through footage and overseeing a documentary on the silent movie legend Buster Keaton.
So when I had the chance to speak to the legendary director about “The Great Buster: A Celebration,” the culmination of his work that gives an all-encompassing look at the work and career of Keaton, I should have known just how besotted he was with him.
But I was intrigued to know how Keaton compared to Charlie Chaplin, who over 90 years after the introduction of talkies bought an end to the silent era, is arguably the only star of the era to still be a household named.
So during our conversation I decided to ask Bogdanovich who he preferred out of Chaplin and Keaton.
Unsurprisingly he picked Keaton, before then going to explain why he believes that the likes of “The General,” “Steamboat Bill, Jr.,” and “Our Hospitality” stand up better than Chaplin’s “City Lights,” “The Kid” and “Modern Times.”
“I prefer Keaton and I think the difference is that Charlie’s stuff dates a bit. Mainly because of its sentimentality. Sometimes he gets a little mawkish.”
“He is not satisfied just trying to get laughs he wants to get pathos as well. Which is sometimes effective and sometimes annoying. Keaton is strictly laughs. But very human. And very realistic in a funny way.”
“Keaton was a great director of comedy. It was a simplification but also very complicated. He knew where to put the camera. He is also a great actor of comedy.”
“His stuff hasn’t dated. It hasn’t been dated by sentimentality. Or mawkishness, which Chaplin’s is sometimes.”
“Keaton had an unerring knowledge and instinct for where to put the camera. It was amazing. Basically Chaplin just photographed himself. But Buster did more than that.”
“Great Buster: A Celebration” is released in select cinemas on October 5.