Journal of American Studies



Buster Keaton and the South: The First Things and the Last


ALAN BILTON a1
a1 University of Wales Swansea, Singleton Park, Swansea, SA2 8PP.

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Of all the great silent film comedians, it is Buster Keaton who most completely inhabits and exemplifies the machine age, perhaps because, unlike other performers, Keaton repeatedly foregrounds the notion that the movie camera itself is a machine, one more device in an automated jungle of sprockets, cranks and motors. Certainly, no other comedian of the period seems so aware of the essentially mechanical nature of the medium, its specifically machine-made possibilities and absurdities; with its flattened space, accelerated tempo and discontinuous leaps in time and space, film acts as a kind of technological synonym for modernity, a modernity in which Keaton's poetic engineering and ingenuous modes of transport appear wholly, indivisibly, at home.

(Published Online November 22 2006)



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