My First Time with Buster Keaton: One Week

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Writing about Buster Keaton’s films has always been a pleasant experience for me. When Lea from Silent-Ology announced that she’ll be hosting the Buster Keaton Blogathon for a third consecutive year, I couldn’t skip this most amazing event. This year is a special one, as 2017 marks the centenary of Buster Keaton’s career which started in 1917.

To read the other entries, please click on this picture:

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For the occasion, I chose to talk about the film that introduced me to his work: One Week (1920); one of his most delightful shorts and a personal favourite along with The High Sign.

I first have to tell you how I came to see this film for the first time as it is one of my favourite life stories. To tell you the truth, it’s by pure coincidence that I discovered Buster Keaton. I don’t exactly remember how old I was, in my early/mid-teens I think. I was at the museum of Shawinigan with my sisters and my parents and there was an exhibition featuring two eccentric artists (can’t remember their name). One of them had decided to project One Week on a little screen as he was a fan of Buster Keaton. So, we see this funny little man building a house in the most amazing way and we are thrilled by it. We watched it twice in a row because it was just so good, you know. We didn’t know much about Buster Keaton’s then, but we could feel what a genius he was. And that’s how I was introduced to his films.

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One Week has a very simple, but effective plot: A newly wed couple (Buster Keaton and Sybil Seely) receives a build-it-yourself house as a wedding gift. Keaton starts the job, but the final result is not the one expected after a jealous man (who wanted the girl for himself) writes the wrong numbers on the boxes containing the material for the house as a bad joke and revenge. Bad joke, but the result is hilarious. The film is called One Week as the story lasts… one week!

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Just like The High-Sign, One Week is a film that can pick architects’ curiosity as the set itself has its own importance. The house is not only a house, but it also becomes a character. All the film revolves around it and is influenced by its metamorphosis. The building of this house also creates interesting visual effects. Did Buster Keaton really do all his stunts? To be honest, I’m always surprised he didn’t die… However, Wikipedia (I know, I know…) informs us that “the fall Keaton takes when he steps out of the bathroom and falls two stories down, is one of the few occasions he truly hurt himself making films. ” So, he took risks.

Interestingly enough, no models were used: a full-size house was used for the filming, and I think it was for the best, as it makes the movie credible enough. Who says movies of the 20’s are not impressing?

What I’ve always loved about Buster Keaton’s films is how those are truffled with a ton of amusing details and fun physical comedy moments. One Week doesn’t make an exception and is like a tiara of fun with moments such as:

  • Buster Keaton taking the place of a policeman to stop a car (after knocking him on the head)
  • The milk splashing Sybil Seeley’s face

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  • That priceless censorship moment (my congratulations to the hand, whoever hand it was)

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  • Buster Keaton falling in Sybil Seeley’s bath (while trying to install the chimney on the house)
  • When it’s raining in the house

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  • The house spinning on itself during a storm
  • … etc.

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There’s also this line that never fails to crack me up. Once the house is finished, Keaton and Seeley invites a few guesses to their new home, but a storm breaks out and the house starts spinning around. Once everybody has been thrown outside, a man thanks Buster and tells him:

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For this film, Buster Keaton was faithful to what he was known for: The Man who never smiles. I honestly think he’s very adorable, even if he doesn’t smile. I would have liked him to build my house anytime, even if the result could have been catastrophic. He’s just amazing to watch. He and Sybil Seeley makes a lovely couple and we can truly feel a good chemistry between them. Those moments where they kiss each other very rapidly are lovely. I also love the fact that the two characters stand for each other and never get impatient at each other despite the trouble they are having with the house. Oh, there’s this scene when Keaton tells to Seeley to go away (so he could install the carpet if my memory is good) and she’s not very happy. Or when Keaton’s falls in his wife’s bath and she’s mad at him. But those little incidents are quickly forgotten by both of them, and true love and solidarity win the battle.

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For anybody who hasn’t seen any Buster Keaton’s films, One Week is certainly a good option. It’s easily watchable, it’s visually brilliant and narratively captivating. If you haven’t seen this film yet, well, be ready to spend some of the most entertaining 20-ish minutes of your life:

Big thanks to Lea of Silent-Ology for hosting this wonderful blogathon! Buster Keaton is one that deserves to be celebrated again and again!

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21 thoughts on “My First Time with Buster Keaton: One Week

  1. Aw, thanks for this great tribute to one of the finest shorts of all time! I’ve seen it so many times and never, ever get tired of it. It’s so fresh, and is photographed so cleanly, and as you said it’s just chock full of wonderful little moments. It’s the kind of film where you smile every time you think of it. And Buster and Sybil have excellent chemistry–I daresay they’re one of the best couples in cinema.

    Thanks again for contributing to the blogathon! Hope to see you next year. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I introduced this film to my mom recently, and she liked it – was not crazy about it, like I am, but I have hope that someday she’ll be a Buster fan as well. It was a great review. The merry-go-round line is one of my favorites, too.
    Kisses!
    Le

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Virginie. I love the way you first got to see Buster. This film is perfect as an introduction. “All the film revolves around” the house. And the house revolves around the film. I like your thoughts on the way Buster and Sybil Seeley play together. He doesn’t always seem this close with his leading ladies.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lovely post! One Week is such a darling film. I like how it starts off with a marriage, when most films tend to end with one. And the behind-the-scenes tidbits of his films are always so fascinating and just as captivating as the films themselves!

    Liked by 1 person

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