The Essential Movie Library #38: The General (1926) - The Culture Files Blog - Los Angeles magazine
 
 

The Essential Movie Library #38: The General (1926)

Once panned by critics, the silent comedy is now considered Buster Keaton's greatest film

Director-actor Buster Keaton was the poet of precision: a special kind of physical acuity by which a human being, possessed of a hapless heart, exquisitely navigates that ever narrowing horizon where cosmic symmetry and chaos meet. With the genes of a vaudevillian and a face sad at birth, he overcame his early reservations about this new-fangled picture-making to become the most profoundly cinematic of the early American film giants with pictures like Sherlock, Jr. and The Navigator. However, as with the precision of a broken clock on time twice a day, the consensus that deems The General to be Keaton’s masterpiece gets it right.

A Civil War saga in which a war-torn Mathew Brady landscape is just a lethal obstacle course for Buster winning his girl’s heart, The General also remains the unsurpassed runaway train (car/bus/plane/submarine) movie, one jawdropping stunt and demented sight gag after another. Like so many other entries in this library, it’s further distinguished by how the filmmaker gambled everything and lost, the picture’s then considerable budget of more than $700,000 colliding with box office failure—the sort of comic precision for which businessmen have little sense of irony. At the same moment that Keaton’s career would never be the same, however, his immortality became a runaway train of its own. 

Read them all:  
The Essential Movie Library #37: Lord of the Rings
The Essential Movie Library #36: Aguirre, the Wrath of God
The Essential Movie Library #35: Raging Bull
The Essential Movie Library #34: The Rules of the Game
The Essential Movie Library #33: Chinatown 
The Essential Movie Library #32: Stalker
The Essential Movie Library #31: Weekend
The Essential Movie Library #30: Some Like It Hot 
The Essential Movie Library #29: Red River
The Essential Movie Library #28: The Passenger
The Essential Movie Library #27: Singin' in the Rain
The Essential Movie Library #26: Heat
The Essential Movie Library #25: L'Atalante
The Essential Movie Library #24: Sunrise
The Essential Movie Library #23: His Girl Friday
The Essential Movie Library #22: Black Narcissus
The Essential Movie Library #21: Blade Runner
The Essential Movie Library #20: Persona
The Essential Movie Library #19: The Shop Around the Corner
The Essential Movie Library #18: Lost Highway
The Essential Movie Library #17: Tokyo Story
The Essential Movie Library #16: 8 1/2

The Essential Movie Library #15: City Lights
The Essential Movie Library #14: Seven Samurai
The Essential Movie Library #13: Lawrence of Arabia
The Essential Movie Library #12: Citizen Kane
The Essential Movie Library #11: Jules and Jim
The Essential Movie Library #10: My Darling Clementine 
The Essential Movie Library #9: Double Indemnity 
The Essential Movie Library #8: That Obscure Object of Desire 
The Essential Movie Library #7: 2001: A Space Odyssey 
The Essential Movie Library #6: Casablanca
The Essential Movie Library #5: The Lady Eve
The Essential Movie Library #4: The Third Man 
The Essential Movie Library #3: The Passion of Joan of Arc 
The Essential Movie Library #2: Vertigo 
The Essential Movie Library #1: The Godfather Trilogy

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