In this series, we follow the life of the legendary movie comedy giant from his childhood on the stage to his film career. Along the way, we learn of the works of this genius and his methods in creating them. Furthermore, we see how events drove him to ruin and how they turned around in his later years to allow him to enjoy the acclaim that was his due. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm <email@example.com>
"A Hard Act to Follow" is probably the best documentary of its kind that could have been made. Three hours isn't long enough to document everything about a man's life but it is long enough to give a touching picture of Buster Keaton as a person, and a thoroughly insightful impression of his peculiar brilliance as a comedian and filmmaker.
The use of old film of Keaton's work is extensive and done in exactly the way it should be. It's not just B-roll thrown randomly behind narration or interview audio. Clips selected for that kind of use illustrate what is being talked about perfectly, and are timed and sped or slowed with great precision, probably just as Keaton would have wanted them. Longer extracts do a marvelous job of illustrating his greatest comedy moments, and -- best of all -- film is slowed or enlarged in ways that really illuminate, sometimes in stunning ways, new things about the comedies that even somebody who had seen them dozens of times would not have known. This is one of this documentary's biggest strengths.
Rare footage of Keaton is very generous and aptly introduced too, including home movies, candid shots of his directing, television kinescopes, commercials he created, and lengthy interview material from the man himself.
Another thing that makes this documentary special, and the thing that makes it really irreplaceable, is that, made a not-astronomical 21 years after his death, it is able to include illuminating interviews with Keaton's third wife and other people who knew and worked with him during his lifetime (and they all seem to have a boundless affection for the man).
I think anyone appreciates Keaton's work should see this documentary, and it would probably be an excellent introduction for those who don't already. It's made with an enormous amount of insight, skill, affection, and apprehension.
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