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wkbeason

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Capote (2005)
2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Exceptional performance by Hoffmann in a superbly executed (pun intended) complex film, 26 March 2006
10/10

About six months after I was born in 1959 there was a terrible murder in a small town in Kansas. Truman Capote, probably the most noted writer in America at that time (having recently published the critically-acclaimed best-seller "Breakfast at Tiffany's") read about this murder in the front section of the New York Times. Capote decided he wanted to do an in-depth article on the crime for The New Yorker magazine.

He traveled out to Kansas with his childhood friend Nelle Harper Lee who had just written "To Kill a Mockingbird" but had not had yet gotten it published. He lived in this small town for several months, becoming friendly and familiar with the people there, interviewing everyone who would talk to him about the crime and the victims. Shortly after his arrival the murders were caught in Las Vegas and delivered to Kansas authorities. Capote managed to interview both of them and was immediately struck by the fact that there was much more than a magazine article under the surface here. He became so engaged with the events and the human beings involved in them that he devoted the next five years of his life to a singular book project which was to revolutionize literature as the first "factual novel." The results became his most famous work, "In Cold Blood." It influenced writers from the moment it came out, it still influences today. After "In Cold Blood" was published in mid-1960's, Capote never finished another novel. He became a severe alcoholic and died from complications of alcoholism in 1984. The writing of "In Cold Blood" – so the interpretation goes – killed him.

Capote is a film about the writing of the novel, the creative process, the obsession that motivated it, the lives that were affected by the act of writing it, and ultimately about how the novel changed its author even more than it changed the world of literature. Philip Seymour Hoffman won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Truman and deservedly so. It is, quite simply, the most astonishing performance I have seen in recent years by an actor. He captures the essence of the flamboyant, poetic, and insightful homosexual literary genius.

But, surrounding this performance is an aesthetic, intellectual, and technical construct of film-making that is rare today. The film runs for 114 minutes, is very slowly (but deliberately) paced, has many, many moments of extended pauses to allow the effect of the cinematography or the subtle, accentuated acting to take hold on the viewer. In quick time, however, it manages to generate a delicate intensity that I found captivating and entertaining.

Each moment in the film is allowed to happen in quiet refinement. Actors are allowed film space to just look at each other, they talk to themselves, the landscapes gone on and on in darkly toned contrasts, lines of dialog linger without an edit. The New York urban jazz party scenes heighten the sense of alienation brought forth and made apparent in the way comfortable literary society is contrasted with the gray earthiness of the criminally violent. Hoffman's Capote becomes deeply connected with both words and is able to translate that into an art form that traps the man and never lets him go.

Moment by moment this is allowed to build so that when the night of the murders is finally revealed to us in bright flashes of bloody horror it seems paradoxically at once brutal, grotesque, and subdued. Indeed their very pointlessness is perhaps the film's most shocking revelation.

This is a terrific film with a superb cast, writing, cinematography, and direction. All elements work well to engage the viewer and show how the contrasts and paradoxes between and within individual lives can shake a sensitive artist to his very core. In some sense, the film allows us to sample what that must have been like. To that extend, we may not understand Truman Capote but we certainly know his anguish. Those seeking resolution or absolution will be disappointed but then life seldom is neatly wrapped up for the sake of one evening's popcorn. This one's real.

A well-crafted psychological tale of slow derangement, 16 September 2002
9/10

Like most of Kubrick's works, The Shining works on you after the initial viewing. The sounds, the images, the dialog resonant – almost hauntingly in this case. Many were disappointed by this film when I first saw it in 1980. But, such is the case with all of Kubrick's efforts after Dr. Strangelove. Upon further review and the required multiple viewings you find yourself humming the tunes, chuckling at many of Jack Nicholson's lines, and reveling at several of the film's brilliant images and steady-cam shots. Nicholson and Shelly Duvall both give terrific performances. Duvall's has been particularly underrated. Try sustaining the sense of sheer vulnerable terror that she does throughout the second half of the film and you'll see what I mean. The carefully selected music accompanying the film is among the best of any movie in history. It is a crime that there is no `official' digital soundtrack available – though there are a couple of decent bootlegs out there if you look hard enough. Those expecting to find the traditional horror flick in the vane of Stephen King's novel will be disappointed. This is horror Stanley Kubrick style. It is a well-crafted psychological tale of slow derangement, of helpless isolation, of the traces of the past that linger on to speak to those with the mind to listen – those who `shine' - whether they want to or not. It's not the `boo' that scares you, it's the effective build-up and juxtaposition using all that the film medium provides to place the viewer inside a metaphysical construct. Audiences aren't used to this approach to the horror film. They are accustomed to surprise and in-your-face abruptness. The Shining is more subtle. And it lingers. Much like all those things that have never escaped the lure of the Overlook Hotel itself.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Not as good as Moonstruck, but still entertaining, 10 September 2002
7/10

This is an enjoyable film. Very funny in places. However, it's not particularly smart or different. Moonstruck did all this years ago with the Italians instead of the Greeks and with better characterizations. I mean, let's face it, in this film you have no idea why this couple falls in love. They just do because it sets up the whole hilarious situation. It was fun and that's about it. Gets a 7 from me.

Insomnia (2002)
Nolan's "Graduation Film" Is No Memento, 7 September 2002
7/10

I am a huge fan of Christopher Nolan. I believe he has the potential to be one of the great directors of his generation. But, how do you follow-up something like Memento? Obviously a brilliant effort. Insomnia, not so. A puzzling effort. The biggest puzzle of the summer. It has flashes of brilliance but the final package just has no intensity about it. Anxious yes. Thought-provoking only enough to make the premise interesting, nothing more. Intense no. The establishing of the narrative's dynamic is handled with great care and expertise by Nolan. Both Al Pacino and Robin Williams render fine performances. Pacino will surely get a Best Actor nomination (and perhaps win compared with the other performances I've seen so far this year.) The cinematography was very well executed. The film captures Detective Dormer's increasing isolation, desperation, the effects of sleeplessness on his thinking and professional drive, his inability to shut out light (his sense of guilt), the emerging doubt about his true motivations as he sinks ever deeper into a morass of lies in order to pursue a truth …all these elements were superbly handled. And yet, in the end, the flashes of brilliance don't add up to anything special. The ambiguity, Nolan's trademark, works well on a moral and simple plot level but what is the context? Unlike in Following and Memento, there is ambiguity without genuine context in Insomnia. Ultimately, despite the well-told story, it fails to live up to its potential. Still, the elements were well enough developed and directed to justify labeling Insomnia as Nolan's `graduation piece.' He has made the transition from art house to mainstream director. It will be interesting to see where he goes from here. I'd give it an 8. Despite its flaws, Insomnia is one of the best offerings we've seen this mediocre summer.

Insomnia (2002)
Nolan's "Graduation Film" Is No Memento, 7 September 2002
7/10

I am a huge fan of Christopher Nolan. I believe he has the potential to be one of the great directors of his generation. But, how do you follow-up something like Memento? Obviously a brilliant effort. Insomnia, not so. A puzzling effort. The biggest puzzle of the summer. It has flashes of brilliance but the final package just has no intensity about it. Anxious yes. Thought-provoking only enough to make the premise interesting, nothing more. Intense no. The establishing of the narrative's dynamic is handled with great care and expertise by Nolan. Both Al Pacino and Robin Williams render fine performances. Pacino will surely get a Best Actor nomination (and perhaps win compared with the other performances I've seen so far this year.) The cinematography was very well executed. The film captures Detective Dormer's increasing isolation, desperation, the effects of sleeplessness on his thinking and professional drive, his inability to shut out light (his sense of guilt), the emerging doubt about his true motivations as he sinks ever deeper into a morass of lies in order to pursue a truth …all these elements were superbly handled. And yet, in the end, the flashes of brilliance don't add up to anything special. The ambiguity, Nolan's trademark, works well on a moral and simple plot level but what is the context? Unlike in Following and Memento, there is ambiguity without genuine context in Insomnia. Ultimately, despite the well-told story, it fails to live up to its potential. Still, the elements were well enough developed and directed to justify labeling Insomnia as Nolan's `graduation piece.' He has made the transition from art house to mainstream director. It will be interesting to see where he goes from here. I'd give it an 8. Despite its flaws, Insomnia is one of the best offerings we've seen this mediocre summer.

Signs (2002)
A modern day Book of Job that would make Hitchcock proud., 1 September 2002
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

***SPOILERS*** ***SPOILERS*** If you are a believer that a suspenseful story cannot be well told with a compensating shock in the end to justify the telling, if you think that suspense requires action and flash more so than innuendo and suggestion for the mind's eye, if you are convinced that rich subtext and characterization cannot compete with a focus exploration of the actual menace made manifest before your eyes, then Signs is definitely not the movie for you.

But, if you like what Hitchcock used to do with audiences, if you admire way Kubrick would frame the shot, or if you like films that explore internal human struggles as much as they expose the external forces with which we contend then you will find Signs to be a very satisfying achievement.

The crisis of Graham Hess is brilliantly intertwined with a worldwide crisis. But things develop slowly, carefully, meticulously constructed such that far more is happening in your mind than on the screen. This is a precious, rare commodity in today's filmmaking. M. Night Shyamalan deserves the highest respect for this achievement. Sure, the film will have its detractors because it doesn't sizzle, it doesn't have very much action, there are some minor plot holes and it doesn't really grab you and throw you for the loop you expect to get after such a long, relentless build-up. But, for those who enjoy subtly of narrative development and depth of character, Signs is a refreshing moment in a summer filled with utter mediocrity.

Shyamalan uses the film to ask `Is it possible that there are no co-incidences?' or, to put it another way, `Can events be `signs' of bigger things?' His main character, Graham Hess, a former Episcopalian Priest, thinks he knows the answer. But, the events of Signs lead him to ultimately reevaluate his answer. In this way, the film effectively works on two levels simultaneously thereby making it Shyamalan's greatest work to date.

On one level we have the invasion of the earth by extraterrestrials. We slowly learn this based upon glimpses (small signs) of their physical presence and an outbreak of a worldwide crop-circle phenomenon (large signs). On another level Graham Hess has lost his faith due to a personal tragedy. We slowly learn the nature of this through various characters insistence on calling him `Father' and in dreams that he has reflecting his final meeting with his now dead wife.

Shyamalan plays both these levels off each another throughout the film in and by the extensive use of irony. Here are several examples.

When Graham and Caroline are in the cornfield, he turns and walks away from her, pausing and states: `Caroline, stop calling me Father.' Caroline: `What's wrong?' `I don't hear my children.' In this sense Graham's response refers most immediately to the fact that he can't hear Bo and Morgan playing. But, at a deeper level it means he no longer hears his congregation and therefore, introduces his spiritual crisis.

Bo leaves dozens of `half-empty' glasses of water on furniture throughout the house. Many of the film's critics find fault with this. Like most of the film's detractors, they attempt to apply (shallow, obvious) reason where it doesn't belong. This is offered as a sign of some nebulous form of metaphysical trouble. By the same token, these glasses - `half-full' - represent a sign that some force is making ready to take on the alien that invades the Hess home late in the film. Water burns the alien's skin like acid - which perhaps is the primary reason for their aborting their invasion of the earth.

To `protect' the children from `becoming obsessed' with news events on TV, Merrill secludes himself in the closet under the stairway with the TV thereby becoming obsessed himself. In this way he learns that `experts' now think the crop-circles engulfing the globe are signs by which to navigate the planet, by which to `make sense' of the earth's terrain. In the end, however, it is the coming of the aliens that provides Graham with the signs he needs to recover his faith.

Before Graham reaches for the knife by which to see what lies under the door to Ray's pantry, Shyamalan shows us sliced vegetables on a cutting board - signs of a knife. Then we pan left to reveal the knife lying there. Graham then cuts off a couple of fingers of the alien within the pantry when it abruptly reaches out for him from under the door. Later, these missing fingers are a sign as to which alien captures Morgan toward the end of the

film and feeds with other memories of signs in Graham's mind resulting in what becomes a resolution to the immediate crisis.

Merrill's reference to events being `like War of the Worlds' plays nicely into the TV's description of ground forces assembling and people flocking to churches and synagogues. Here, Shyamalan pays tribute to that classic sci-fi flick. That's exactly what happens in that movie. But, Graham reacts to people turning to religion in this moment of crisis lukewarmly. `I'm going back to the windows,' he says and returns to boarding up the house.so things can't get in.so you can't see out. No signs allowed, that's the attitude of the former Father Hess.

Here we need to discuss to more criticisms of the film. Many contend that the boarding up of the house is a rip off of previous films. They also contend that Graham and Merrill are inept in the manner that they deal with the crisis. The second criticism is ridiculous. Graham and Merrill and not strong characters. The critics want something that Shyamalan is not attempting to provide. The main characters are not heroic, they are faced with this crisis while bearing a tremendous wound and while having little or no inner strength to draw upon. You might not like this fact, but it is handled quite well, works as Shyamalan intends. Not liking a character is not evidence of either lack of character development or poor characterization.

The first criticism fails to see that the film seeks to pay homage to the genre (particularly to Alfred Hitchcock). Sure boarding yourself up in your house has been done before. But, never in this context. It is the context that is important whenever reading a sign and Signs is a collection of signs. In this context, it represents an attempt to shut out the world, mirroring the psychological struggle of the whole family in general and in Graham in particular. The criticism is shallow outcry of a viewpoint greedy for action, reason, strength, and effect when the entire point of the film is based on none of these.

As the family is crying together at the dinner table, we pull back through the food and, more significantly, glasses of water to reveal the baby monitor, which immediately picks up on alien signals. Graham then goes to check the TV only to discover there is no signal, a sign that, as Graham says, `It's happening.'

In the final memory of Colleen, Graham hears her say that the truck hitting her `was meant to be' which is exactly the way a dejected Ray describes it earlier in the film. In other words, they are telling Graham that the accident is a meaningful co-incidence. He has rejected such a view. But, his rejection has blinded him to signs both past and present. (Just like the critics of the film.) Graham tells Merrill that the last thing Colleen said was `See' and `Swing away.' That Colleen was remembering a baseball game where Merrill was at bat. But, in reality what she said was for GRAHAM to `see' and for Merrill to `swing away.' Whether Graham intentionally misrepresents the event to Merrill or he simply doesn't remember clearly at that point is not made clear to us. But, the point is that Colleen is calling Graham to `see' and in the context of the film to `see' the signs - which is a sign unto itself.

The conversation between Graham and Merrill takes place during the second most important scene of the film. Merrill is seeking comfort from Graham, he wants Graham to say something to take away the anxiety of Armageddon. Graham, in a philosophical tone, tells him that there are basically two kinds of people. Those who see events as signs and therefore have hope and those that see events as random chance and are therefore filled with fear. Those with hope have it because `deep down they feel there will be someone to help them.' Those with fear have it because `deep down they feel they're on their own.'

Merrill says he is `a miracle man,' a man of hope. But, Graham insists that things are random and `we are all alone.' The irony of this statement comes later when Morgan has an asthma attack as aliens invade the Hess home. This is the film's most important scene. Graham takes his son in his arms and helps him through the asthma attack without medication. `The fear is feeding it,' he tells Morgan. `Believe it is going to pass. Breath with me. Together. We're the same.'

This marvelous scene sets up Graham's - and the world's - redemption. Simultaneously, while helping Morgan through his asthma attack, as he tells his son to `believe,' Graham begins to believe in God again. How? Ironically, by declaring his hate for God. This hate is his first step on the road back to the priesthood.

It is perhaps the greatest irony that Morgan has asthma and it saves his life. Because his lungs are closed (placing him near death) when the alien attempts to inject poison gas through his nose, Morgan survives the assault. Equally ironic, because Bo has left glasses of water lying around the house, the final alien is scalded and falls under the blows of the bat from a minor league baseball strikeout king.

There are many levels to Shyamalan's screenplay and they are all orchestrated in terrific harmony under his directorship. Signs is a film that clearly tells us `there are no such things as coincidences.' `Everything happens for a reason.' `Hope will win out over fear.' Whether or not you agree with this message, whether you find flaw with the film's ending in relation to its relentless build-up, Signs is nevertheless a modern version of the biblical Book of Job. It is meant to create anxiety as entertainment while offering you an optimistic message as well. You can either accept this offering or not. But, M. Night Shyamalan has crafted his story well and has given us a work that will affect you in many ways the deeper you look into it.

Disappointment, 21 July 2002
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Some spoilers below...

Hanks delivers a flat performance. Newman is terrific but there's no chemistry between his character and any of the others. For that I blame director Mendes who completely fails to realize the multi-leveled entertainment structure of American Beauty. For that I, in turn, blame the screenplay. It offered nothing new. If you intend to do yet another gangster movie for God's sake give us something different. The narrative explores nothing particularly. Why should I care if Hanks' wife and son are killed. What did they mean to him? What does anything mean to him? What meaning there is is given to us way too little and too late in the day. And please, don't show me someone being shot from behind spewing blood all over a window that doesn't even get cracked by the bullets that are supposedly flying through the body causing the spewing of blood to begin with. Ill-conceived violent scenes are just another reason to feel disappointed by this one. It's another 6 in a summer filled with them.

Doesn't measure up to its potential, 13 July 2002
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Spoilers here, mates.

There are three primary narrative elements in Minority Report. The first is the action element wherein John Anderton is placed in the ironic position of discovering why the system he has dedicated his life to has predicted that he will commit murder. The second is the philosophical element which boldly postulates that all human activity is predestined to occur unless a given person gains insight into the future wherein that person gains free will and gets to make a choice about their future. The final aspect of the narrative is John Anderton's motivation for being driven by his work and for his chemical addiction – the loss of his son.

If this film is to be justified as truly one of the greatest ever made then that assessment must be based solidly upon the presentation of the narrative material. Starting with the most basic aspects of the presentation – the sound and cinematography – Minority Report deserves rather high marks. The soft, bleak camerawork is quite effective in communicating a bland mood of emotional numbness and experiential detachment that seems to permeate our commercialized, regimented future. I thought the sound aspects – editing, effects, music – all supported this work and help to sustain the atmosphere upon which the three narrative elements could be offered and explored.

It is then up the film's screenplay, directing, and acting to make the offering and to undertake exploration of the narrative elements. Here is where we run into trouble with Minority Report. The innovative cinematography and cool effects end up being mostly an empty shell.

First of all, the screenplay presents the philosophical narrative, but never explores its consequences or establishes any sort of context by which to relate to it through the characters. Its just there. Interesting, but just there. Philip K. Dick does a better job of handling it in the short story upon which this 144-minute summer flick is based (as is also true of the story which gave use the equally mediocre Total Recall).

Likewise, Anderton's loss of his son is shown to us, but we have little reason to empathize with this extraordinary condition. Oh, we see him reminisce with the 3D video stuff and we see him – all too briefly – poolside with the boy, but what exactly was his relationship with his son? How did they play? And interact? We don't have a clue. Instead, we have the standard approach of parents lose kid, parents break-up that we've seen dozens of times – and better accomplished – in other films like Accidental Tourist. There is no depth to John's relationship with his son and we need depth to get beyond rationally caring and into a level of emotionally relating to John's experience and motivations. This, unfortunately, has consequences for Tom Cruise's performance as I will mention later.

The central narrative – the ironic situation if Anderton having to deal with the circumstances of his future murder – is, unfortunately, so devoted to being action driven and an excuse for the special effects that the aspect that could potentially make the narrative special – the irony itself – is in the backseat. It is not as bad as the Lucas-Syndrome of special effects BECOMING the story itself, but that doesn't make it any less shallow. Again, this is an instance where Dick's short story outshines the flick.

The unconventional – and potentially fantastic - underpinnings of the story and the film's technical elements end up being presented in a rather predictable. At best this is simply conservative storytelling. At worst it is predictable.

When unconventional subject matter is handled in a conventional narrative expose it is usually either because the material in the screenplay was not realized on film or because the screenplay never gave enough for the actors and directors to fully explore the potential depth. The latter is the case in Minority Report. Tom Cruise gives what either can be described as a subtle performance or a flat one. In Eyes Wide Shut he was criticized as coming off flat when, in fact, he unfolded subtly to match the slow pacing and revelation of that film's content. Here, however, the flatness is justified, not necessarily because of his effort but because he simply didn't have the material to work with and because Steven Spielberg couldn't push beyond the limitations of the shooting script.

In sharp contrast, Max von Sydow realizes more than is there in the script. Here he reminds me of John Huston in Chinatown and does a brilliant job conveying to us motivation, lust for power, manipulation, and – most importantly - inner turmoil as a contradicted character. His performance outshines everything else in the film and, sadly, gives us a benchmark by which to measure the rest of the material and how it is (or isn't) developed.

Spielberg never takes the risks with this film that the material demands. Compare his directorial efforts with those of Ridley Scott in Blade Runner. The latter is a groundbreaking film, an influential effort that helped shape the modern film making style. Scott took tremendous risks in the way he successfully entwined production with substance to create a unique look and feel with enough depth to care about the relationships depicted. In Minority Report, the subject matter is packed with potential, but no one can honestly say Spielberg gave us any relationships to care about outside of the generic sense (wife and husband reunited in the end with new baby on the way…OK, but what did these people to mean each other before? What, for example is Jill's motivation for getting so deeply involved with John's circumstances in the end?). A viewing of Blade Runner involves the viewer more than a viewing of Minority Report. Ultimately, this is not a profound or innovative film.

Memento (2000)
67 out of 76 people found the following review useful:
Innovative narrative structure makes for a powerful viewing experience, 9 July 2002
10/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

FACT ONE: "Just because there are things I don't remember doesn't make my actions meaningless."

FACT TWO: "Your notes could be unreliable."

FACT THREE: "Memories can be distorted."

FACT FOUR: "But, even if you get your revenge, you won't remember it. You won't even know it's happened."

FACT FIVE: "I want time to pass, but it won't. How can I heal if I can't feel time?"

FACT SIX: "We all need mirrors to remind ourselves who we are."

When life becomes incomprehensible human beings tend to simplify things, revise memories, select facts that may or may not be representative of "the truth." We strive to make events as intelligible as possible but that act often has unintended consequences. Now, if you can capture this existential human reality on film in such a way as to allow the viewer to experience this struggle for understanding, for the placement of private aspirations into the context of the moment even as the primary character makes this same struggle, then you have connected our hearts and minds seamlessly with the film's lifeworld. That is a rarity indeed.

Such is Memento, a brilliantly conceived and executed work of art that has its audience literally at their wits end (just like the film's main character) trying to understand it all. The great debate of whether Teddy's version of the truth at the end is really "the truth" is symptomatic of director Christopher Nolan's purposeful craftsmanship. The very fact that we are as uncertain throughout most of the film as to the context of Leonard Shelby's actions as Leonard himself signifies that Nolan has succeeded in not just telling us Leonard's story put allowing us to know what it is like to *be* Leonard. This allows the film to work at a much deeper, almost subconscious, level scarcely achieved on film.

Guy Pierce, Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano all deliver terrific performances with some of the most original material I've seen in years. This film grabs your brain and won't let go. It twists and turns and – just when you think you've got things figured out – Nolan whips the rug out from under your feet. You are left totally involved and struggling with creating some sense of closure out of the infinite loop of the film's structure.

You can debate endlessly whether Teddy's final summary of events is the truth. You can argue both sides of whether Leonard killed his wife or invented Sammy Jankis out of thin air. In the end these are open questions. In the end there are no definitive answers. In fact, in the end ANY answer is plausible, just choose the one that sits best in your mind. Make that the truth. Because THAT is what this film is all about. It's about a man who can remember who he is but not what he has done and, to that extend, it is the prefect postmodern critique. We are often forced to act without sufficient information. The accelerating rush of our lives sends us headlong into our present without full consideration of where we've been. And on that level Memento provides a bold, compelling narrative that connects Leonard with every person. It is the mirror image of our divided selves.

No matter how much his audience might disagree with the film's conclusion, Nolan understands that - in the end - truth doesn't matter. It is what we choose to do with what we think is the truth that's important. And that can mean anything at all.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
The best silent picture ever made, 9 July 2002
10/10

Buster Keaton was the single most brilliant performer of the silent era. He even eclipsed the extremely talented Charlie Chaplin - who has more of a following. But, Keaton's stunts (he never used a double) and improvisational skill far exceeded anything Chaplin did while equaling Chaplin's penchant for subtlety, intimacy and humor. Keaton's ability to play a scene with the perfect facial expression (a talent especially critical in silent pictures) also surpassed Chaplin's classic eye-rolling and mustache wiggling. The General, which Keaton wrote and directed in addition to being the film's star, was an ambitious undertaking that showcased all of his abilities for creating empathy, tension, and zaniness in a way that - unlike virtually any other silent picture - holds up very well to most viewers even today. Keaton's secret lies in his capacity to tap in to timeless aspects of human experience. His style is sleek and melancholy without coming off as sentimental. He is sophisticated and his stunts strike the viewer today as jaw-dropping and completely modern. Perhaps too modern in this film - which was a financial flop in its day. Trying to infuse the War Between the States with humor did not play well with mainstream audiences in 1927. The General actually presented itself more effectively years later before audiences less affected by the times it depicts. The film is flawlessly exciting, poignant, funny and technically satisfying in every respect.


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