King of silent film gets showing in Seoul

Home > Culture > Features

print dictionary print

King of silent film gets showing in Seoul

Buster Keaton himself never laughed on screen, but his viewers certainly did. Remaining true to his reputation as the Great Stone Face, Mr. Keaton ruled the era of black-and-white silent comedies in the 1920s and the 1930s.
Making an art film was the last thing Mr. Keaton would have set out to do, mindful of his role as an entertainer.
Decades later, however, Keaton is remembered as a black-and-white comedy virtuoso, whose retrospective is currently taking place at the Seoul Art Cinema and runs through June 25.
Though Charlie Chaplin is probably the most famous figure in black-and-white silent comedy, Mr. Keaton occupies a pivotal place in film history. His enthusiasts have ranged from French director Jean-Luc Godard, Spanish artist Salvador Dali and Hong Kong actor Jackie Chan.
Mr. Keaton used stunt techniques and camera movements to create his own style of “acrobatic action.”
Instead of creating a story structure to influence viewers, Mr. Keaton’s first priority was to make the most of film techniques and actors’ stunts to produce laughs and pathos. His films deliver an optimistic message that life is still worth living.
The film “Hard Luck” is one such example. Keaton stars as a typical loser, both in job and in love. Trying to commit suicide, he drinks poison, which turns out to be liquor. Under the influence of booze, he decides to go hunting for rare animals.
Starting in vaudeville show performances at the age of three with his father, Mr. Keaton grew up on stage, debuting on screen in the 1910s.
The Kansas-born director and actor enjoyed a prolific career from the late 1910s to the 1920s. He produced 19 shorts within three years.
Keaton was at his peak from 1924 to 1928, making the five landmark films of his career, “Sherlock Jr.,” “The Navigator,” “The General,” “Steamboat Bill Jr.” and “The Cameraman,” which are all included in Seoul Art Cinema’s retrospective program of 31 films.
“The Navigator” tells a story of a man who boards a ship in a fit of anger after his girlfriend turns down his marriage proposal. The ship, however, turns out to belong to his girlfriend’s father. Before he knows what has happened, he’s out to sea with his girlfriend’s father, the only other person on board.
Among the films presented in the retrospective, the short films are worthy of attention.
“Haunted House,” “Hard Luck” and “Neighbors” take viewers to the world of early black-and-white silent films. The concoction of action, black-and-white and silent film reaches its climax in feature films like “The Navigator” and “The Cameraman.”
Korean action-film director Ryu Seung-wan will pay his respects to Mr. Keaton by holding a lecture this Saturday at 4 p.m. at the theater. Mr. Ryu, whose latest action film “Arahan” drew much attention and praise, will talk about Mr. Keaton’s directing style.
Another lecture, scheduled for Sunday at 2 p.m. by the programmer Kim Seong-wuk, is titled “Dead-pan Sorrow.”

by Chun Su-jin

Tickets for each screening are 6,000 won ($5). Advance ticket sales are available at: or at:
You can reach the theater by getting off at Anguk Station, subway line No. 3 line, exit No. 1. Walk 10 minutes toward Jeongdok Library. Seoul Art Cinema is in the basement of Art Sonje Center. Call (02) 720-9782 or visit:
Log in to Twitter or Facebook account to connect
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
help-image Social comment?
lock icon

To write comments, please log in to one of the accounts.

Standards Board Policy (0/250자)

What’s Popular Now