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The Silent Film Society of Chicago opens its 2003 "Silent Summer" festival at the Copernicus Center's lovely Gateway Theatre with a performance by the West End Jazz Band and a screening of Buster Keaton's 1924 comedy masterpiece about a spoiled rich boy and his sweetheart who are stranded on an abandoned, drifting ocean liner, to be accompanied by organist Dennis Scott. As Dave Kehr once noted in these pages, "the situation is perfectly suited to Keaton's natural sense of surrealism--everything is too big, too full, and too much. Keaton and his girlfriend (Kathryn McGuire) become two innocents lost in a threatening, mechanistic Eden, alone in their oversize world." The movie came about when Keaton's art director discovered the 500-foot SS Buford being sold for scrap; in its 33 years of service the ship had ferried troops to the Spanish-American War and carried the deported Emma Goldman to Russia. The classic diving-suit sequence, in which Keaton uses one swordfish to duel with another, was shot in the clear, frigid waters of Lake Tahoe, the star and cameramen punctuating their 15-minute submersions with slugs of whiskey. Donald Crisp codirected with Keaton. 69 min. Copernicus Center.


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