There’s something comforting about the fact that Peter Bogdanovich’s Buster Keaton documentary The Great Buster: A Celebration begins with Bogdanovich on The Dick Cavett Show in 1972, discussing the climax of Keaton’s 1925 Seven Chances. Ol’ Pete’s the same as ever! Much like his 1971 Directed by John Ford, Bogdanovich’s The Great Buster is as much a personal essay as a history report, and probably not worlds different from what it would be like to hang out with him watching Keaton films.
Indeed, The Great Buster: A Celebration is at its best when it’s just Bogdanovich pointing out all the great stuff in Keaton’s movies, particularly Buster’s mid-’20s peak with Steamboat Bill, Jr. and the stone-cold classic The General. The talking-head segments are a bit dodgier; the implication seems to be that Jackass’ Johnny Knoxville is Keaton’s closest successor, probably because Bogdanovich doesn’t have Jackie Chan’s number in his Rolodex. (And you just know he still uses a Rolodex.) Werner Herzog talking about Buster Keaton also doesn’t compute, while the awful Quentin Tarantino stinks up the joint with his usual awfulness. And it’s swell that Richard Lewis owns a replica of Keaton’s porkpie hat, but not as swell as it would have been to see more of Buster doing his thing in The Great Buster.
Not rated. Opens Friday at the Opera Plaza Cinema.