Thursday, December 09, 2004

Seven Chances

Buster Keaton has always been a favorite of mine. He has a wry melancholy assoicated with his work and an intelligence which exceeds his often more popular contemporary, Charlie Chaplin. Don't get me wrong, Chaplin is a force of nature on screen, and he does it intuitively. From the sheer genius of comic timing that is The General, to the inventive self-awareness of Sherlock Jr. Keaton has to seemed to me, to have to work bit harder. His characters are a bit sadder, and more clever and complex due to his efforts. I don't want to get into right into this particular debate that has gone on between cineastes for more than 50 years, so...
Seven Chances belongs in the Have-to-do-something-wacky-in-order-to-inherit-a-fortune genre of films, but surprisingly is not the originator of the genre (which was Cecil B. Demil's Brewsters Millions in 1914). James Shannon (Keaton) stands to inherit $7 Million if he can marry by 7 o'clock on his 27th birthday. The difficulty is that he gets the legal document (a Will) the morning of his 27th birthday.
He begins by proposing to his girlfriend who in a hilarious set of misunderstandings refuses him. Then he spends time walking around town proposing to any woman he finds. They laugh in his face. Finally, his business partner puts an ad in the paper saying the first woman to arrive at the specified church (in full bridal attire) can wed Shannon and get a chunk of his money. This inspires several thousand women to show up, and thus begins a shoving match and the films signature chase sequence where Shannon has to dodge throngs of brides-to-be, various forces of nature and finally a massive avalance of boulders (which has to factor somewhere in the inspiration for Raiders of the Lost Arks signature boulder sequence).
Seven Chances is also great look at Hollywood in the 1920s, as it appears to be mainly shot on location. It is a blast of comic joy, free of subtext or pretense. Thank-you Kino Video for putting this gem out on DVD in all of it's sepia-tinged glory!


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