Review: Three Ages

So I recently saw Buster Keaton’s Three Ages (1923). It’s quite different from his other films. Turner Movie Classics  explains that it’s apparently his first film that he directed and starred in. Moreover, it marked a move to feature length movies. The movie takes place in three different eras with the basic premise is that love has been constant through the ages. To demonstrate this, they have three similar plots staged in the Stone Age, the Roman Empire, and the Modern Day. In each scenario, Buster Keaton falls for a girl but has a rival who is bigger, stronger, and generally wealthier than him. Turner Movie Classics says that the film was a take off of several D.W. Griffith films’ including Intolerance (1916) and Man’s Genesis (1912).

It’s probably my least favorite of his films I’ve seen so far. That’s not to say it isn’t worth watching. My ambivalence to the film is largely because of the overt racism. Now, I’m not saying that other Buster Keaton films don’t have racist elements (Jewish people have some “interesting” cameos in his film) but it was much more appalling in my opinion in this film. The moment in question was when Buster Keaton consults a fortuneteller about his love and is rolling dice. At the same time, a woman on a litter carried by African slaves walks by. Upon seeing the dice, the litter carriers drop the litter and rush over to play dice. Yeah, that’s pretty awful, Mr. Keaton.

The film does have its non-offensive moments. The best part is when Mr. Keaton is challenged to a chariot race by his rival. It happens to snow that day in Rome so Buster Keaton shows up to the stadium in a chariot dog sled, which is pretty great. And the Stone Age has a dinosaur, which generally is a good thing in my book.

TuI’d watch  his other films first, notably Sherlock Jr. and The General.

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One thought on “Review: Three Ages

  1. Yes, it’s always disconcerting to see old films & cringe at some of the embedded elements. That happened to me too last week when I saw BHOWANI JUNCTION at Lincoln Center. Ava Gardner was too gorgeous for words but some of her “Indian” companions were a bit hard to bear 😦

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