The Great Buster celebrates the life and career of Buster Keaton, one of America’s most influential and celebrated filmmakers and comedians whose singular style and fertile output during the silent era created his legacy as a true cinematic visionary. Filled with stunningly restored archival material from the Cohen Film Classics library, The Great Buster is directed by actor, filmmaker and cinema historian Peter Bogdanovich.
The Great Buster chronicles Buster Keaton’s beginnings on the vaudeville circuit—as part of his parents’ act—and the development of his trademark physical comedy and deadpan expression that earned him the lifelong moniker of “The Great Stone Face,” which culminated in his career-high years as the director, writer, producer and star of his own short films and features. Interspersed throughout are interviews with nearly two-dozen collaborators, filmmakers, performers and friends, including Mel Brooks, Quentin Tarantino, Werner Herzog, Dick van Dyke and Johnny Knoxville, who discuss Keaton’s influence on modern comedy and cinema itself.
Bogdanovich’s documentary also covers the loss of artistic independence and career decline that marked Buster Keaton’s later years when he was reduced to popping up in ’60s teen beach-blanket movies and TV commercials. But The Great Buster ends on a high note with an overview of Buster Keaton’s extraordinary output from 1923 to 1929, which yielded 10 remarkable feature films (including 1926’s The General and 1928’s Steamboat Bill, Jr.) that immortalized him as one of the greatest actor-filmmakers in the history of cinema.
“Any doubters are advised to see this movie, then treat themselves to a viewing of The General. Case closed.” (Walter V. Addiego, San Francisco Chronicle)
“The Great Buster is a solid primer on what made Keaton not just one of the most important—and funniest—comedians in the history of the movies but also one of its most visionary directors.” (Ty Burr, Boston Globe)
“Peter Bogdanovich brings his formidable knowledge of movies to bear in this incisive portrait of Buster Keaton.” (Andrea Gronvall, Chicago Reader)