Sherlock Jr.| Review: My Second Favorite Film
Updated: May 31, 2022
I never really understood why people compare Charlie Chaplin to Buster Keaton. Undoubtedly both are masterminds in the art of cinema, but each for their own reasons. Chaplin was more for pushing the structure and narrative of cinema, while Keaton preferred to just flat-out entertain the audience with stunts and comedy. Both of their movies are fairly equal in quality. Keaton definitely proved himself as the master of stunts, while Chaplin proved that he could write and act better than anyone around.
Sherlock Jr. is a prime example of a masterpiece film that follows a simple story. The film opens with the quote "Don't try to do two things at once and expect to do justice to both," and the audience is presented with a narrative that completely follows that proverb. Keaton plays a movie theatre projectionist that dreams of one day becoming a detective. He inevitably becomes a detective but is framed for a crime he is in the process of investigating.
One underrated aspect of Sherlock Jr. that I still find fascinating is Keaton's mastery of composition. Almost every single shot is composed to perfection. Every aspect of each frame is used to its full extent. Before this film, Keaton seemed to care more about stunts, as opposed to the more technical side of filmmaking. If Keaton ended his career in 1923 --one year before making Sherlock Jr. -- then he would still go down as one of the greatest figures in cinema, but less for his directing achievements.
When I was coming up with a rating for this film, I was trying to find any mistakes or bad parts of the film. But there really is nothing wrong with Sherlock Jr. at all. There are no stunts that have any left in "goofs." The story seems to wrap up at the right time. The acting is all top-notch and believable. The film obviously has given plenty of influence to other films. These are all reasons why I have come to the very rare choice of giving this film a solid 100/100.
As you've noticed by the title of this review, Sherlock Jr. is now my #1 favorite movie. It used to be Chinatown, then The Third Man, and then Once Upon A Time in the West. My two favorite genres are definitely film noir and westerns, but I've recently been watching a lot of silent films. Most of them are rewatches for films that, upon first viewing, I appreciated as opposed to considering it one of my favorites. I definitely agreed with people that films like Nosferatu were masterpieces, but for a while, I wouldn't consider them as favorites. Now though, I consider Nosferatu to be a definite favorite. Watching Sherlock Jr. the first time around I considered it a masterclass in filmmaking, but wouldn't consider it as a favorite of mine. I rewatched it a couple of months ago and definitely considered it as a favorite of mine, all be it not that high. Then I watched it a third time about a few weeks ago and now it's my favorite film.
It's hard to even speak of Buster Keaton's body of work without mentioning his stunts. Despite some parts of Steamboat Bill Jr. and The General, the stunts in Sherlock Jr. are some of the best in Keaton's entire career. Sherlock Jr. delivers classic stunt after classics stunt. I even saw one scene referenced in a recent short film. The bicycle scene in Sherlock Jr. definitely defines Keaton's talent as a stunt man. Sherlock Jr. is Keaton at Keaton's best, and cinema at cinema's best.
Time Stamp: October 2020