Seven Chances

Buster Keaton, USA, 1925


If the car chase is a classical feature of the cinema of silent comedy, Buster Keaton, gives us a virtuoso rendition of it in this excerpt. Nothing in this excerpt is faked (except the dummy taking his place in the tree, placed just at the time of a cut). Even if we know the rocks are fake, the actor’s actions are truly real, and are really physical performances: crossing over a precipice, tumbling down a tree, throwing himself off a hill head first… the choice of wide shots, like the choice of a barely cut sequence, testifies to the reality of the situation, and we, just like the character are literally taken in, in this breath-taking race not knowing the outcome: indeed, even though the rocks that threaten to bury Jimmie are fake, the actor really has to avoid them, at speed, with instinct and a resourcefulness that utterly enchant us. On this steep slope, he cannot anticipate the paths the rocks will take and must show resourcefulness and audacity in avoiding them. The frequent changes of axis and reframing enable us to not lose anything from the spectacle, and, at times, to see the danger coming a bit before the character. We watch this extremely mobile body, careering maniacally, achieving extraordinary feats all in order to avoid an accident he started himself, swinging from admiration to fear for the character, just like for the comedian himself: Buster Keaton, true acrobat and daredevil, who nearly died several times in his career.