CINEMA RITROVATO 2017: Focus On Buster Keaton – The Neighbors


Posted by Larry Gleeson


In late 1920, after The fool (the first film that sees Keaton separate from the vulgar humor of Roscoe Fatty Artbuckle) and a series of fortunate and renowned short films, Neighbors is the latest in which Buster Keaton is a writer, director and star – called at the time (in Italy) “Saltarello.” In this short film resurface some of his characteristic elements resurfaces “the articulation narrative based sull’equivoco” in a series of highly dynamic and homogeneous chases and somersaults.


Keaton is in love with his neighbor and wants to marry her, but their families hate each other. So they are constantly separated by a fence between their respective yards and that is exploited (with the clothesline) for creating an overwhelming rhythm that binds the story, its misunderstandings, and perpetuates the continuous gag. The “if” in this film is sovereign and becomes an integral part of the narrative that brings the story to its random, happy ending.


“For the restoration of The neighbors nine prints were inspected and analyzed, seven of which […] were scanned and compared. Two items were finally selected for the reconstruction […] “, projected after the digital restoration with an accompaniment by Gabriel Thibaudeau piano.

Later the scapegoat was shown – the restoration of which were “inspected and analyzed twelve components […]. For its reconstruction we have been used two negative dupes, both second-generation, […] “. A more mature film, of 1921, shows the creation of a more elaborate and homogeneous gag, bound together by a plot more articulated: “a cascade of authentic gag linked to each other without any gratuity.” (Marcel WHO)

Keaton, this time, was targeted because he was accidentally photographed instead of a dangerous inmate, who seizes the opportunity and evades. Keaton’s face appears on all the newspapers of two neighboring countries and he becomes the target of the police (who so resemble those of policemen of 1922) who want the bounty placed on his head. The whole film is of the protagonist in a constant pursuit, and, of course characterized by the inevitable happy ending.

Very famous is the sequence in which Keaton flees on a train, after removing all the cars that made it up, from a distance, approaching a gate to stop. Buster, the only passenger, appears sly and intent, sitting comfortably on the locomotive’s handrail (front) lighting a cigarette before resuming his race.

“The interpretation is not the only problem of the comic, there is also that of creation and staging. The comedian goes racing: how to achieve the effect in due time, then allow the audience enough time to recover, and then push hard or continue progressing as appropriate. […] This rhythm is a science […] “(Buster Keaton in Anthologie du cinéma ).

—– Carolina Caterina Minguzzi