Sherlock Jr. (1924)

Genres - Comedy, Drama, Fantasy  |   Sub-Genres - Slapstick  |   Release Date - Apr 21, 1924 (USA)  |   Countries - USA  |  
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Considered one of Buster Keaton's greatest works, and his most (gasp) avant-garde feature, Sherlock Jr. centers on movie illusion itself, hilariously filtered through the dreams of Keaton's sad-sack projectionist. Showcasing both Keaton's interest in filmmaking technique and his repertoire of vaudeville physical gags, the film comically riffs on such visual tricks as superimpositions and editing, as a ghostly "Keaton" exits his sleeping body and walks into the screen, only to face repeated peril as one background cuts to another. The movie he finally joins becomes, naturally, an ideal fantasy world in which Keaton, as a suave detective, phlegmatically rights the wrongs that he has just suffered in reality. French director René Clair likened Sherlock Jr. to Luigi Pirandello's classic self-reflexive play, Six Characters in Search of an Author, for its surreal take on the relationship between viewer and medium. Should this comparison put in question Keaton's overriding desire to create comic mass entertainment, Sherlock Jr. also contains the railroad stunt that literally broke Keaton's neck. Combining comic physical prowess with smart visual wit, Sherlock Jr. confirms Keaton's place as the most imaginatively cinematic of the silent film comics, and it inspired Woody Allen's fantasy, The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), as well as countless other directors and sequences.