Brow Beat

How Buster Keaton Perfected the Art of the Gag

Buster Keaton’s genius has long been praised, but his visual gags may, at first thought, also seem slightly outmoded, a strain of humor that has little in common with modern comedy. In the latest installment of “Every Frame a Painting,” Tony Zhou rejects that notion. He shows, instead, how Keaton’s gags are small gems of visual artistry that have influenced artists as disparate as Wes Anderson and Jackie Chan.

When filming a gag, Keaton’s primary goal was telling a story through action, and Zhou sharply details how that goal was achieved: camera placement, creativity, a commitment to never faking stunts. Keaton’s best films were made nearly a century ago, but much of his work still overshadows its imitators.

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