The Play House
Buster Keaton, Edward F. Cline, USA, 1921o
As a stagehand in a vaudeville theatre, Buster dreams of a performance in which he plays all the numbers and is also his own orchestra and audience. After the rude awakening in the coulisse, the game of doubles and deceptions continues with a pair of twins, two doors and mirrors until the worker is really forced onto the stage because the star of a chimpanzee act has escaped. The ongoing troubleshooting culminates in the rescue of a drowning underwater acrobat.
Keaton's ironic homage to the world of vaudeville theatre, in which he himself grew up as the son of a comedian and acrobatic couple, and learned to perform at the age of three and developed his stupendous body control. The film is constructed like an evening in one of these contemporary entertainment theatres for the "uneducated lower class": more of a revue of numbers than a closed narrative, but in addition to the famous bravura piece at the beginning, in which Keaton's multiplication was achieved by masking off parts of the image, multiple exposures of the same film strip and highly precise timing, the twin and the monkey act and the finale are also full of stunning ideas. Legions of later filmmakers made use of The Play House. Just think of the aquarium scene of Mission Impossible. Very few of them even got close to Keaton.Andreas Furler