Film? Not Much Of Anything, Really...
- Film / Notfilm review by Count Otto Black
To be fair, one star is less than "Film" deserves. It might perhaps merit as many as two. Legendary silent movie star Buster Keaton gives as good a performance as an arthritic old man who hides his face from the camera for almost the entire run-time can be expected to in this, his silentest movie ever. It's so silent that only once is there a briefly audible sound, which I assume was included to reassure baffled audiences that the total silence wasn't due to a faulty projector. It's minimalist in other ways too. Apart from Buster, the only characters are three people with bit-parts near the beginning, unless you count animals and furniture. And other than the opening scenes, all the action takes place in a shabby room furnished only with things that have to be there because the script says Buster will do something with them. It's only twenty minutes long, but that's more than enough time for it to run out of material, forcing it to ruin its few half-decent jokes by telling them all at least twice.
The plot, such as it is, follows Buster's desperate attempts to avoid being looked at by anyone or anything, including mirrors, kittens, and holes in furniture that vaguely resemble eyes. This paranoid slapstick reminded me of two things: Jack Nance's weird interactions with the objects in his room at the start of "Eraserhead", which may have been inspired by "Film" but if so, David Lynch did it far better; and some of Terry Gilliam's cartoons from the Monty Python TV series, except that Gilliam would have done it in two minutes rather than twenty and it would have been funny. The impossibility of Buster achieving his goal in a situation where by definition he's constantly being watched by a camera, and at a further remove by everyone who will ever see the film, is so meta-fictionally ironic that it seems more like a Pythonesque parody of pretentious arthouse cinema than the genuine article. And if the punchline surprises you, it can only be because you didn't think it could possibly be that predictable.
And then there's "Notfilm", a two-hour documentary I didn't watch very much of, but which seems to consist, as such things usually do, mainly of dull interviews where old people talk about dead people, interspersed with archive footage of dead people talking about themselves. Yes, that's right, the tedious making-of featurette you don't really need is six times as long as the actual film!
Oh, and you also get a completely unnecessary remake of "Film" without Buster Keaton but with sound and colour they didn't think they needed in the first place, which is so very, very Pretentious Seventies Arthouse Cinema that I half expected the camera to pan away from the action to John Cleese saying "And now for something completely different..." I wish it had. There are many films which wouldn't be improved in the slightest if they suddenly abandoned the plot and cut to an embarrassed chat-show host awkwardly interviewing a man with three buttocks. This is not one of them.
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