Peter Bogdanovich puts together a gushing love letter for one of the pioneers of cinema in The Great Buster: A Celebration, a documentary which assembles a wide list of famous faces to examine the long-reaching influence of Buster Keaton on cinema both past and present.
Any cinephile surely knows of the work of Buster Keaton, one of the major stars of the silent era who helped to define cinema in the early stages of its life. This is something Bogdanovich is very aware of, and something he wants to tap into, with a documentary that is fairly routine with delivering the facts of Keaton’s life, and is more alive when it is either dissecting some of the most iconic scenes of Keaton’s career or getting famous faces to discuss the impact Keaton has had on their own careers.
That means The Great Buster works very well as something that would appeal to those just discovering Keaton and those already familiar with him. You learn a lot about his general life and career, starting from his vaudeville days in a travelling show with his parents, before moving out to California to pursue a career in film. From there it charts him forging his on-screen identity, from the classic two-reel silent shorts like One Week and Cops, to the peak of his career with his independently produced feature films through the ’20s. It also goes into detail about his decline with the introduction of sound, his trouble with alcohol, and his eventual re-emergence on the world’s stage with late-career acting roles and commercials.
Full review at VultureHound, originally published March 23rd 2020.