Sunday, April 20, 2014

Silent Sundays: Three Ages (1923)

“Through every age there has been a worshipper at beauty’s shrine.”

            Love stories are usually told in the same fashion over and over again. A boy is in love with a girl but the girl barely notices her or at least that is what the boy thinks. The girl is with another boy who is bigger, stronger, and has more money. The girl likes the regular better but she does not let him know that. The boy has to fight to be seen and get the girl’s full attention and also has to try to beat and outsmart the other boy. It is almost like a David and Goliath story. Let’s face it the formula can get extremely old and boring. In 1923 Buster Keaton put a different spin on what was even an old formula in the 1920s with his full length comedy Three Ages.
            The story flip flops between three ages: the Stone Age, the Roman Age, and the Modern Age. Each story is a David and Goliath story. In each Keaton likes a girl who barely notices him. When he tries to speak to the girl the first time another bigger man comes in and tries to speak to her as well. The parents come in and in each different period they give Keaton a test. In the Stone Age the father hits the bigger guy who does not flinch and when he hits Keaton, Keaton falls down; in the Roman Age the bigger guy outranks him; in the Modern Age his bank account fails him.
            Next Keaton tries to make the girl jealous by being seen with another girl in the Stone and Roman ages. In the Modern Age, Keaton tries to say hello to the girl as she is waiting outside a restaurant for the bigger guy. Keaton is shy and hides behind a car until the car pulls away. He follows the girl into the restaurant and sits at a table where he can see the girl and the big guy. Before Keaton sat at a table a man at a table over filled a decanter with alcohol so his girlfriend would not find out he had any on him. As Keaton sits at the table he becomes nervous and starts drinking what he believes to be water. The more he drinks the funnier he becomes and then eventually passes out. The bigger guy notices Keaton has been staring at them. He sends a letter to the man at the other table pretending to be Keaton. The man gets up and fights with Keaton who obviously has no idea what is going on.
            The next phase the bigger guy challenges the smaller guy to a game. In each age Keaton wins but the bigger guy is a sore loser and finds a way to send the smaller guy somewhere where he cannot be a bother. Again Keaton overcomes whatever obstacle is thrown at him and he ends up with the girl.
            Three Ages was very funny and sweet. My description cannot do the film and the story justice. I love Buster Keaton’s comedy because it is innocent and also because he does so many little movements that happen so quickly but when they are caught make the scene so funny. Three Ages is not the best Buster Keaton film, there is really nothing too outstanding about it but it is worth watching if you like silent films or Keaton’s films.