A Journal of the Plague Year 2022–chapter 254

Wednesday, February 16

We’re back in the city, having returned on Saturday. Except for a couple of negligible appointments, we have no profound reason for being here: As Emily said, we needed a change.

Really, we could be anywhere given that the high point of each day is watching streaming videos, primarily on the Criterion Channel. As I suggested before, a primary focus is on silent movies—Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and, surprisingly, Buster Keaton, whose work I now see is terrific. 

No silent star outperforms Chaplin, but, as a New Yorker article recently suggested, you can make a case that Keaton had a more profound influence since he really exploited the film medium. Much of what Chaplin did, he could have done on a stage. Keaton, on the other hand, demonstrated the magic of film…with surprising jump cuts, bits of prestidigitation, and amazing energy. We’ve seen Sherlock Jr., Steamboat Bill Jr., and The General—and for our money, Sherlock Jr. was the most surprising and most humorous of these. The much ballyhooed The General, on the other hand, shares with Birth of a Nation an off-putting affinity for the Confederate cause in the Civil War.

As for Chaplin, I have seen and enjoyed Modern Times more than once, and recently saw the odd Limelight. The Criterion Channel has both The Kid and The Gold Rush, neither of which have I seen. I suspect The Kid is a bit sentimental—just like City Lights and Limelight, but that seems to go with the territory.

Other non-silent options range from Mike Leigh to Jean Cocteau, Ingmar Bergman and Jacques Rivette. Tonight we may well settle for Federico Fellini’s Amarcord.

Dinner: pasta Bolognese and salad.