Buster Keaton and the Puzzle of Love

In Ken Morefield & Nick Olson (eds.), Masters of World Cinema, Vol. 3. Cambridge Scholars Press. pp. 31-43 (2015)
Authors
Timothy Yenter
University of Mississippi
Abstract
Despite the notable lack of Chaplinesque romantic flourishes, Buster Keaton has a sophisticated approach to romantic love in his films. Love in Keaton’s films is a mutual recognition and admiration for the physical and mental competence necessary to deal with an absurd, cruel, or indifferent social and physical environment and an agreement to face the world together. There are two ways in which this claim might seem surprising to someone familiar with Keaton’s films. Keaton’s famously stoic persona seems to be at odds with the very idea that there is an expression of romantic love in the films. How could someone so un-expressive express romantic love? There is simply not enough there to be interpreted. Additionally, the topic of love seems to be the wrong approach to take toward Keaton, the master of the gag. His films are original and interesting and funny because of their visual wit, not because of their thematic value. Watching his films for themes is to miss what is valuable about them. In answering these objections, I will set the stage for my argument that Keaton’s narratives assume the viewer recognizes the Buster character is in love while withholding many of the traditional emotional signifiers of that love. The narrative cannot proceed without this assumption and many of the gags don’t work without recognizing Buster’s motivation. Through careful attention to the resolution of the stories within the films, we can begin to recognize the surprising, sophisticated approach to romantic love that the films contain.
Keywords Buster Keaton  philosophy of film  love  Noel Carroll
Categories (categorize this paper)
Options
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Analytics

Added to PP index
2014-09-11

Total downloads
59 ( #105,397 of 2,266,845 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
6 ( #66,581 of 2,266,845 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Monthly downloads

My notes

Sign in to use this feature