Sunday Silents: Buster Keaton’s The General

Sunday Silents: Buster Keaton’s The General

Sunday, February 7th, 2016

with live piano by Marta Waterman

3:00 pm | $7/$5 | 1h 7min | Action, Adventure, Comedy

This unique movie not only draws on the historical drama of the American Civil War by creating convincing characters caught up in those tumultuous days, but it plays the story with humor. It has been said that it is the most serious comic movie ever made.

Buster Keaton in The GeneralKeaton plays a hapless train engineer with two loves—one a beautiful girl, and the other, a locomotive named “The General.” When the Civil War breaks out he rushes to sign up, but is rejected because his job as an engineer is too important to the cause. He’s not told the reason and simply feels rejected, as only Keaton can, with a wistful melancholy that is almost funny. His would-be fiancée and her father believe he is unwilling to fight, and his woes are compounded.

What follows is mixup after mixup, some hilarious and all ingeniously displaying Keaton’s acrobatic grace and inventive style, at a level as good as the best work ever done on in the silent film medium. Author Jim Kline has described The General as Keaton’s most personal film, the one that best captures his unique vision, spirit and personality. In many of his films, Buster Keaton starts off as an inept or effete character and develops into a hero. But his competent, ingenious and athletic character in The General, who is also modest, tireless, and underestimated, comes much closer to his real nature.

As for all the silent films in Rosendale’s series, The General will be accompanied by the piano virtuosity of Marta Waterman.