Keaton's Cops | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Keaton's Cops


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It's hard not to feel a bit annoyed at first with Ken Jacobs's 1991 film Keaton's Cops. He has printed Buster Keaton's hilarious silent classic Cops so that except for a few early shots and the final title only the bottom fifth of the image is visible-- the top 80 percent of the frame is black. While it's surprising how much can still be seen--small fragments of events, some of the final chase--the effect is to remove the narrative causality around which the movie is organized. We see the knees of two men apparently sitting together on the curb, without knowing why; the intertitles have been blocked out. But the closing off of one possibility opens up another, and the film's strange focus reveals a world of shape and rhythm, complex movements that create depth, and static, almost statuesque compositions. Jacobs's reduction of the image to a narrow strip becomes a kind of metaphorical philosopher's stone, transforming a concrete world of characters and actions into a mysterious one of suggestive forms, alive with multiple possibilities but not limited to any one of them. Some of the other films on this Chicago Filmmakers program, "Panorama Inside the Glimpse," also seek out imaginative worlds within relatively restricted views; included are works by Leslie Thornton, Scott Stark, Marcek Febre, Julie Murray, Lewis Klahr, Stan Brakhage, and Peter Herwitz. Chicago Filmmakers, 1543 W. Division, Wednesday, December 8, 8:00, 384-5533.

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