Buster Keaton
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"Our Hospitality"

(...) the film begins with a cut to New York City circa 1830, when cows still roamed in open fields and traffic was just beginning to be a problem. Keaton makes his appearance, elegantly dressed and standing on a porch somewhere in the city. Wearing a ruffled shirt with fine tie, waistcoat, cutaway jacket, and top hat, McKay is obviously a different sort than "Our Hero." A man of some means, McKay examines a sealed envelope and then, without so much as a wink or a smile, he hops onto his bicycle, removes his top hat, puts the envelope in it, and places the top hat back on his head with an elegant tap. His bicycle ride is ready to begin.

Demonstrating Keaton's fondness for unusual machines, however, the bicycle McKay rides is not just any bicycle, but a contraption of the highest order. Modeled on the Gentleman's Hobbyhorse (Blesh 226), one of the earliest known bicycles, McKay's vehicle immediately strikes ones as being absurdly awkward to ride. Minus anything resembling a seat and without pedals, the bicycle's handlebars are more like metal reins. The metal bar that crosses McKay's abdomen seems designed simply to give him something to lean against. As McKay begins to ride, it becomes apparent that in order to propel himself forward, he must swing his legs back and forth, as if he is riding on a swing. It is not a graceful vehicle to ride; it is difficult to steer and certainly uncomfortable.

Nevertheless, McKay maintains his façade of elegance. His entire frame seems permeated with a sense of serenity untouched by his surroundings. He is proud of his bicycle and, in his mind, all as is as it should be, even if he does look like a fool with his swinging legs and his wobbly bicycle. Glancing about himself nonchalantly, he is apparently not in a hurry. It is conceivable that this character has never been in a hurry. His life in New York has been quiet, peaceful, perhaps even unexceptional -- a far cry from the life he would have lived if he had remained in the mountains where he was born, and an even farther cry from the situation he is about to get himself into. This portion of the scene ends as McKay arrives at an intersection.

(...) Riding in his fine clothes on his comically inelegant bicycle, McKay is a gentle, fastidious creature (...)

Buster Keaton in treno

Buster Keaton in Auto
Buster Keaton Takes a Walk
[reproduced from "Keaton: The Man Who Wouldn't Lie Down" by Tom Dardis]
Translation and introduction by A.L. Lloyd

In 1930 Garcia Lorca left proud, grave, unhurried Andalusia and found himself in New York. He was appalled. For him it was "a Senegal with machinery." He wrote a group of tormented surrealist poems in which he set down his terror of the concrete canyons of the city where men stagger "unslept like those who've just come from a bloody shipwreck." When his horror had eased a bit, it amused him to recall his favorite American fool, Buster Keaton, and to imagine him making an innocent's journey through the desperate landscape. It was probably shortly after finishing the agonized Poeta en Nueva York that he wrote the sweet little squib--dadaist, surrealist, "absurd,' called El Paseo de Buster Keaton. It remained unnoticed among his papers (missing inclusion in the Obras Completas published by Losada in Buenos Aires) until it appeared in the small collection of Tres Farsas (Coleccion Teatro de Bolsillo, Mexico City, 1959).

Characters: Buster Keaton
The cock
The owl
A Negro
An American Woman
A young girl

COCK: Cock a doodle doo.
Enter Buster Keaton with his four sons, hand in hand.

KEATON: My poor little boys. (He draws a wooden sword and kills them.).
COCK: Cock a doodle doo.
KEATON (counting the corpses on the ground): One, two, three and four. He takes a bicycle and rides away. Among old car tires and petrol cans a Negro is eating his straw hat.
KEATON: What a marvelous afternoon.
A parrot flutters about in the neutral-colored sky.
KEATON: It's great, riding a bicycle.
OWL: Chirri chirri chirri chi.
KEATON: How sweetly the birds sing.
OWL: Chirrrrrrr.
KEATON: Stupendous.
A pause. Impassively, Buster Keaton rides through the rushes and across the rye patch. The countryside grows smaller under the wheels of his bicycle. The machine takes on a single dimension. It could enter a book, stretch out in a bake oven. Buster Keaton's bicycle hasn't a caramel saddle and pedals of sugar, of the sort that wicked men might wish for. It is a bicycle like any other, except that it is the only one that's permeated with innocence. Adam and Eve would run in terror if they saw a glass of water, but on the other hand they would stroke Keaton's bicycle.
KEATON: Ah love, love!
Buster Keaton falls off. The bicycle runs away from him. It chases after two huge gray butterflies. It goes like a madman, half a millimeter off the ground.
KEATON: (picking himself up): I've nothing to say. What was I saying?
A VOICE: You're crazy.
He walks on. His sad infinite eyes, like those of a new-born beast of burden, are dreaming of lilies, angels and silk sashes. His eyes are like the bottom of a glass, like a mad child's. Very ugly. Very beautiful. An ostrich's eyes. Human eyes in the exact balance of melancholy. In the distance, Philadelphhia can be seen. The inhabitants of this city knokw the old poem of the Singer sewing machine and how it circulates among the hothouse roses, yet they never understand the subtle poetic difference between a cup of hot tea and a cup of cold tea. Philadelphia shines in the distance.
KEATON: This is a garden.
An American woman with celluloid eyes comes through the grass.
KEATON: Good evening.
Buster Keaton smiles, and looks at the woman's shoes in close-up. What shoes! We ought never to have introduced those shoes! It took the hides of three crocodiles to make them.
KEATON: I wish--
WOMAN: Do you have a sword decorated with myrtle leaves?
Buster Keaton lets his shoulders droop and raises his right foot.
WOMAN: Do you have a ring with a poisoned stone?
Buster Keaton slowly closes his eyes and raises his left foot.
WOMAN: What a bout it?
Four seraphim with wings of heavenly gauze dance among the flowers. The girls of the city are playing the piano as if they were riding bicycles. The waltzes, the moon, the motor-boats, shake our friend's delicate heart. To everyone's surprise, autumn has invaded the garden like water in the geometrical plot of a sugar-lump.
KEATON (sighing): I wish i were a swan. But I can't be even though I'd like to. Because what have I done with my hat? Where are my paper collar and my watered-silk tie? What a calamity!
A young girl, wasp-waisted, with beehive coiffure, enters on a bicycle. She has the head of a nightingale.
YOUNG GIRL: Whom have I the honor of greeting?
KEATON (with a bow): Buster Keaton.
The young girl falters and falls off her bicycle. Her striped stockings tremble in the grass like two dying zebras. Simultaneously, in a thousand cinemas, a gramophone is announcing: There are no nightingales in America.
KEATON (kneeling): Miss Elinor! Forgive me! It wasn't me, Miss Elinor! (lower) Miss! (very quietly) Miss! (He kisses her.)
Over the horizon of Philadelphia shines the glittering star of the police.

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