Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Safety Last (Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor)

This was my first look at silent comedian and fellow Nebraskan Harold Lloyd. He's the (distant) third big name in silent comedy after Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, which is probably good for Lloyd. Being less admired, he gets to avoid the stupid "Keaton or Chaplin" debate. That debate is infected with businessman's syndrome and has nothing to do with personal preference or aesthetic value. Instead, it squashes two distinctive artists into one generic product: Silent Comedian. They're not microwaves or socket wrenches. Why should we have to choose one over the other? Keaton is as different from Chaplin as Chaplin is from Keaton and Keaton is from Lloyd and Lloyd is from Chaplin and a radish is from a doorknob. I'm glad there is room in this world for all of the above. I like Lloyd, if I can judge him from this film and An Eastern Westerner, a short that was also on the copy of the video I watched. He's not the artist Keaton or Chaplin is. Instead, his greatness comes from the sense that performing is not natural for him and he's working his ass off. I don't mean to suggest his comedy is labored or overcooked. Instead, it seems fresh, spontaneous, ingenious, with Lloyd as a hardworking guy having to adapt quickly to ridiculous situations.

P.S. When did pratfalls stop being funny? Watching someone fall down in a classic comedy is hilarious. Watching someone fall down in a modern comedy is nauseating. Maybe the problem is not that pratfalls are no longer funny, but that funny comedians no longer do pratfalls. Yes. This makes more sense to me. Bad comedians have monopolized modern pratfalls. I'm going to call this phenomenon the Martin Lawrence Effect.

No comments:

Blog Archive