Andrei Tarkovsky
"And is Chaplin—comedy? No: he is Chaplin, pure and simple; a unique phenomenon, never to be repeated. He is unadulterated hyperbole; but above all he stuns us at every moment of his screen existence with the truth of his hero’s behavior. In the most absurd situation Chaplin is completely natural; and that is why he is funny."
Buster Keaton
"At his best, and Chaplin remained at his best for a long time, he was the greatest comedian that ever lived."
François Truffaut
"My religion is cinema. I believe in Charlie Chaplin…"
Jean-Luc Godard
"He is beyond praise because he is the greatest of all. What else can one say? The only filmmaker, anyway, to whom one can apply without misunderstanding that very misleading adjective, ‘humane’… Today one says Chaplin as one says Da Vinci—or rather Charlie, like Leonardo."
Jean Renoir
"The master of masters, the filmmaker of filmmakers, for me is still Charlie Chaplin. He has done everything in his films—script, direction, setting, production, performance and even the music… His films are not only examples of perfect unity, but all his work is one. One may say indeed of Chaplin that he has made only one film and that every facet of that film is a different enactment of the same profession of faith."
Jiri Menzel
"All Chaplin’s early films assured me that the comedy can say in a grotesque way much more about people’s characters than serious films, which after a certain time fade away and became ridiculous. Good comedy is immortal."
Luis Buñuel
"When I was young, the idea of an orgy was tremendously exciting. Charlie Chaplin once organized one in Hollywood for me and two Spanish friends, but when the three ravishing young women arrived from Pasadena, they immediately got into a tremendous argument over which one was going to get Chaplin, and in the end all three left in a huff."
Masaki Kobayashi
"Last year I went to the Cannes Film Festival and met Charles Chaplin. They showed his works. I was deeply impressed by his greatness. His films, his methods and content, are modern and so contemporary; he is a great genius."
Ousmane Sembène
"[Did other filmmakers teach you anything?] There was one, an old man whom I had the fortune to meet very old, Charlie Chaplin; he told me that everyone could do this job, but that it is very demanding… He was the only guy who you couldn’t see in bars, nightclubs, or at receptions. He told me one had to stay at home and work…”
Pier Paolo Pasolini
"You can always feel underneath my love for Dreyer, Mizoguchi and Chaplin… I feel this mythic epicness in both Dreyer and Mizoguchi and Chaplin: all three see things from a point of view which is absolute, essential and in a certain way holy, reverential."
Satyajit Ray
"If there is any name which can be said to symbolize cinema—it is Charlie Chaplin… I am sure Chaplin’s name will survive even if the cinema ceases to exist as a medium of artistic expression. Chaplin is truly immortal."
Stanley Kubrick
"If something is really happening on the screen, it isn’t crucial how it’s shot. Chaplin had such a simple cinematic style that it was almost like I Love Lucy, but you were always hypnotized by what was going on, unaware of the essentially non-cinematic style. He frequently used cheap sets, routine lighting and so forth, but he made great films. His films will probably last longer than anyone else’s.”
Vittorio De Sica
"Truly good films—like Chaplin’s—should stimulate as well as soothe, should appeal to the mind as well as to the senses, should kindle thought as well as the emotions."

Buster Keaton


"I adore Buster Keaton." — Luis Buñuel

"Just thinking about him moves me. He is one of my witnesses when I say that some of the very best filmmakers were athletes. He was the quintessential athlete, a real acrobat." — Werner Herzog

"My favorite director of all time is Buster Keaton, and it goes deeper than just being a comedian, because he is a great director and actor and funny in an extremely human way." — Jim Jarmusch

"Keaton had a great influence on me. A lot of his moves I intuitively copied in doing some numbers. I know I was thinking of him when I did a dance with a squeaky board and a newspaper. I didn’t look like him, but I often wish I did. He was a complete genius, and there was a lot of dance inherent in his movements." — Gene Kelly

"Bach is timeless. So is Masaccio. So is Buster Keaton…" — Satyajit Ray

"Keaton was beyond all praise, a very great artist, and one of the most beautiful men I ever saw on the screen. He was also a superb director. In the last analysis, nobody came near him." — Orson Welles

Buster Keaton

Buster Keaton

“Keaton was beyond all praise, a very great artist, and one of the most beautiful men I ever saw on the screen. He was also a superb director. In the last analysis, nobody came near him. I was lucky enough to get to know him fairly well just at the end of his days. The Stage Door Canteen—a sort of cabaret-restaurant for servicemen run by show people—we both used to work there. I did magic and he washed dishes, for God’s sake. Keaton, one of the giants! What about The General—that’s a truly great movie, isn’t it? Now, finally, Keaton’s been ‘discovered.’ Too late to do him any good, of course—he lived all those long years in eclipse, and then, just as the sun was coming out again, he died. I wish I’d known him better than I did. A tremendously nice person, you know, but also a man of secrets. I can’t even imagine what they were.” — Orson Welles

Buster Keaton’s College

Buster Keaton College

Buster Keaton’s College
by Luis Buñuel (from Cahiers d’Art, 1927)

Here’s Buster Keaton in his wonderful new movie, College. Asepsia. Disinfection. Freed from tradition, our eyes have been rejuvenated in the youthful and restrained world of Buster, a great specialist against sentimental infection of all kinds. The film was as beautiful as a bathroom; with a Hispano’s vitality. Buster will never seek to make us cry, because he knows facile tears are old hat. He’s not, though, the kind of clown who’ll make us howl with laughter. We never stop smiling for an instant, not at him, but at ourselves, with the smile of well-being and Olympian strength.

We will always prefer, in cinema, the monotonous mien of a Keaton to the infinitesimal one of a Jannings. Filmmakers abuse the latter, multiplying the slightest contraction of his facial muscles to the nth degree. Grief in Jannings is a prism with a hundred faces. This is why he’s capable of acting on a surface fifty meters wide and, if asked for “a bit more,” will contrive to show us that you could base a whole film on nothing other than his face, a film called Jannings’ Expression; or, The Permutations of M Wrinkles Raised to the Power of n².

In Buster Keaton’s case his expression is as unpretentious as a bottle’s, for instance; albeit that his aseptic soul pirouettes around the circular and unambiguous track of his pupils. But the bottle and Buster’s face have infinite points of view.

They are wheels that must accomplish their mission in the rhythmic and architectonic gearing of the film. Montage—film’s golden key—is what combines, comments on, and unifies all these elements. Is greater cinegraphic virtue attainable? The inferiority of the “antivirtuoso” Buster, when compared to Chaplin, has been argued for, turning this to the disadvantage of the former, something akin to a stigma, while the rest of us deem it a virtue that Keaton creates comedy through a direct harmony with the implements, situations, and other resources of filmmaking. Keaton is full of humanity, but streets ahead of a recent and increate humanity, of humanity à la mode, if you like.

Much is made of the technique of films like Metropolis and Napoléon. That of films like College is never referred to, and that’s because the latter is so indissolubly mixed with the other elements that it isn’t even noticed, just as when living in a house we remain unaware of the calculus of resistance of the materials that go to form it. Superfilms must serve to give lessons to technicians: those of Keaton to give lessons to reality itself, with or without the technique of reality.

The Jannings School: European school: sentimentalism, a bias toward art and literature, tradition, etc.: John Barrymore, Veidt, Mosjoukine, etc.…

The Keaton School: American School: vitality, photogenia, a lack of noxious culture and tradition: Monte Blue, Laura la Plante, Bebe Daniels, Tom Moore, Menjou, Harry Langdon, etc.…