Worksheet 16 - Worksheet sixteen In Sherlock Junior(1924...

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Worksheet sixteen In Sherlock Junior (1924), Keaton is a projectionist at a movie theatre who dreams of being a detective. As a detective, in the reality of the fiction, he is a failure and as a result loses the girl whom he loves. As a detective, in fantasy, in the film he enters, he is a success. He passes into the screen of Hearts and Pearls , not only to solve a mystery in that film, but to rescue the girl ( his girl/the girl in the film he enters) by acrobatics and athletic deeds thus winning her in fantasy and then awaking having won her in reality, in the framing fiction, and as a result it might seem of the adventure in fantasy, within the framed film. The ability to pass from reality to fantasy and back again attests to the porosity between the real and the imaginary, the everyday and the cinema, a constant in all of Keaton’s films, and, it might be argued for all cinema. Is this not at the centre of Vertigo , of most adventure stories and all love stories, indeed in the nature of film, a passage and to and fro between the world and images of it, which is the magic and the lure of films? The ‘real’ scene(s) in Sherlock Junior - the dollar bills, the wallet stuffed with money, the box of chocolate whose price is altered to make it seem expensive, the theft of the watch, the slipping on the banana, the falsity of the other lover - concerns the deceptiveness of appearances. Insofar as what appears to be true is other than it appears, reality itself is made uncertain as is any attempt to mimic it (a verisimilitude). The two films, framed and framing, are mirror images. The central ‘plot’ at the opening is that ‘true’ love belongs to Buster and his girl whereas ‘false’ love, the love that deceives the girl, is taken to be true when it is only a seduction, dirty because false. The true is always pure - like Buster himself, an innocent and ingenious. In order to reveal the falsity of appearances (the other lover, the watch he is accused of stealing), Buster enters a fantasy world (film!) where quite literally dream is taken to be true. Buster’s extraordinary feats in that world seem impossible, though it is only a film where anything is possible, thus giving reality to his dreams. (Keaton actually performs these feats, the impossible made real, a dream of an actor that approaches the extraordinary of circus). The truth of things are revealed in fantasy and in dream. The spectacle that Buster provides in the framed film is literally a revelation of the truth of things in the framing film, if you wish, its ‘true’ image. Buster in Sherlock Junior adopts two attitudes (permanent features of his films): that of dream and that of scepticism. It is precisely his scepticism towards what he sees that leads him into dream such that the lyricism of the narrative and his choreographed mad acrobatics, performed with a blank, stony expression (the expression at once of the sceptical and the dreamer makes all appearances in reality doubtful while at the same time making all fantasies and imagination governable (possible, believable). In this way,
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