Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Seven Chances (Keaton. 1925)

"A hard act to follow..."

The first film that I had ever seen staring Buster Keaton was so unfunny and dated that I was automatically given an unfair depiction of the comedic legend. The second film of his that I watched was surprisingly decent. As they have been known to say, the third time is definitely the charm as Buster managed to dig himself out of my preconceived hole with one of the most enjoyable silent comedies that I have ever seen. Seven Chances is a lighthearted, ridiculous and stunt filled chuckle fest that singlehandedly has catapulted Buster Keaton into one of my favorite cinema figures.

The greatest thing about Seven Chances is it’s out of this world plotline. Jimmie Shannon (Keaton) has learned that he stands to inherit a major fortune from his late grandfather’s will. This is great news, seeing that he is involved in some bad deals that have left him financially under. With this money he will be able to save himself from poverty and jail time. He may also be able to marry his sweetheart, Mary Jones.

But there is a catch to Shannon’s apparent inheritance. In order to receive the seven million dollars, Shannon must be married by the seven o’clock hour of his twenty-seventh birthday. And of course, that means he must be married by seven o’clock that day. After blowing his proposal to Mary, Shannon is forced to try and find a wife by the end of the day. His partner resorts to all sorts of nonsensical pick up strategies that include everything from flattery to an ad in the local newspaper. The latter serves as the most working route of thought, which means that hundreds of women are now trying to marry Shannon for his inheritance money.

Buster Keaton is famous for daringly performing all of his own stunts in his early pictures. Obviously, you cannot have a film that features the human cartoon character without expecting to see some breathtaking and daredevilish acts of wellbeing abandonment. In Seven Chances, Buster Keaton is on the run from a hoard of hundreds of want-to-be brides. This scene has everything that we have come to expect from Keaton – he is thrown through the air, forced to swim great distances and ultimately sent rolling down a hill with several falling large rocks (made of papier-mâché). These stunts are, like usual, the calling card for Keaton and his character.

One thing that I enjoyed during Seven Chances was Buster’s famous deadpan facial deliveries. The film is silent, but Keaton says a lot with his eyes and forehead. You can see the sadness, discomfort, happiness and disappointment in his eyes. This is the first of his films where I have noticed an acting style from Keaton, and it was extremely relatable.

As the star and director of Seven Chances, Buster Keaton shows me why he is considered such a landmark in comedy. The only man to rival the comedic popularity of Charlie Chaplin, Keaton is a true genius in physical humor. His jaw-dropping stunts and ridiculous antics will do nothing short of making you fall in love with his character.

It has been said that, unlike Chaplin, Buster Keaton did not care if you felt for his characters. I think that Seven Chances is the exception to this statement. Keaton made a very funny comedy with a very sentimental love story connected to the back end. This is my favorite film of Buster Keaton that I have seen so far. It is also one of my new favorite comedies.

Seven Chances: B+

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