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Watch Steve McQueen’s Buster Keaton-Inspired Short Film ‘Deadpan’

Written by on April 21, 2015 

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Long before he premiered his feature debut Hunger in 2008, Steve McQueen built up an experienced career in the world of exhibitions and short films. A couple of years before getting awarded the prestigious Turner Prize in 1999, he completed Deadpan, a short film which borrows from Buster Keaton‘s iconic house-toppling scene in Steamboat Bill, Jr. yet with the use of repetition and framing, the comedic effect is utterly detached. Before the video, see a synopsis from the museum which recently displayed the work in a retrospective:

There we see the same event from several different angles in a sequence that alternates between stasis and motion. The artist stands immobile in front of a simple wooden house. Suddenly the wall topples over, but he remains unscathed because of a strategically placed open window. Although McQueen deliberately exposes himself to danger, he looks statuesque as he stands there uninjured. In re-enacting a stunt from Buster Keaton’s film Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928), Deadpan abandons the original film’s narrative structure and the comic effect of disaster accidentally averted. Instead, we see successive variations on a scene repeated again and again in almost oppressive silence.

Check out the video below, along with McQueen discussing the art of filmmaking alongside Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, James Cameron, David Cronenberg, Paul Greengrass, Ridley Scott, and more.


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