To bring a fitting finale to the London Comedy Film Festival was this delightful treat to remind us where comedy films have come from and evolved into: the bustling comedy industry as we know it. Both truly iconic founders of the art-form, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, show us that, regardless of what year it is and whether speech is used, if it’s funny people will laugh. The two films chosen were The Champion from 1915 starring Charlie Chaplin and the 1924 classic Sherlock Jr starring Buster Keaton. To top off this wonderful experience was a live piano accompaniment to both films.
This is a beautifully funny comedy with exquisite and quite genius editing, that I quite ignorantly wouldn’t imagine from such an early film – but something that is pivotal in the storytelling of a silent movie.
The story follows Chaplin as his classic tramp character, who while walking his dog finds a lucky horseshoe. He stumbles upon the genius idea of using the horseshoe in his boxing glove to give him and upper hand (pardon the pun) in a boxing fight. The whole story is underpinned by a relationship between Chaplin and the trainer’s daughter.
While this is one of Chaplin’s earlier films, it has a wonderful innocence and joy about it that I can only imagine comes with it being at an early and exciting point of his blossoming fame.
Buster Keaton is one of the true greats of his era and along with Charlie Chaplin almost single-handedly drove comedy motion pictures forward to new, exciting and previously unknown territories.
Sherlock Jr. has a much more story driven feel about it and the comedy comes from not only slapstick, as in The Champion, but from the characters and the situations they find themselves in, which in a sense feels like a steady progression from Chaplin’s 1915 short.
The story focuses around a cinema projectionist who longs to be a detective and right at the beginning of the film we are given a wonderful little proverb “don’t try to do two things at once and expect to do justice to both”. It turns out to be sound advice for our protagonist.
Keaton’s character clearly holds little in the way of detective skills, but all the same tries his best when it turns out that he has been framed by another man who is after his girlfriend, whom he has just proposed to, by means of planting a stolen watch in Keaton’s pocket. Hard as he tries, his efforts prove miserable and it takes the lady to seek the truth in order for him to be acquitted of this unjust crime.
This was a great watch and was lovely to see what must have been some of the first great character and situation type comedies to be captured on film – making the whole experience that bit more special.
All credit to the coordinators of the festival as they have taken us on a journey of comedy and dropped us off at its beginning. This years program has been great and left me fulfilled and excited for next years instalment of the London Comedy Film Festival – roll on 2013.
Image courtesy of the LoCo Film Festival