This week over at The Film Experience, the Hit Me With Your Best Shot series is doing old Stoneface's dazzling Sherlock Jr.
Not that there are really any slow bits in this 44-minute film but the opening is fairly pedestrian considering where the film heads. Buster Keaton plays a film projectionist who dreams of being a detective. He gets his chance when his romantic rival frames him for the crime of stealing his girl's father's pocket watch.
The film heats up when Keaton falls asleep on the job and imagines himself transposed into the movie he's projecting. It becomes a surreal experiment in slapstick and visual imagery. There are some beautiful and creative shots during the sequence but I've selected as a best shot the shot below, which was very hard to capture. Essentially it's car chase where Keaton and his girl pull up to a house, duck into it through one window, then escape from another window when their pursuers arrive in another car. They steal their pursuer's car and the chase resumes.
Why this shot? I picked it because it demonstrates how much action you can put in a single frame, and how this has become a lost art. So much happens here that as a viewer you don't even know where to look. As you're watching the bad guys dart into the house, Keaton and his girl are escaping out another window and into a different car. It's only one scene of many dynamic frames in this film but watching the movie last night I was really struck by how little we see action composed this way anymore. In The Dark Knight Rises for example every shot seems there to relate one piece of information. One punch. One leap. And it makes for very flat viewing.
Here are a few more shots I particularly liked.