surrealism quote

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Buster Keaton, for instance, protested to the end of his days that he had no notion of what his admirers were talking about when they spoke, as Andrew Sarris did, of his “cerebral” qualities, or when they detected a pervasive surrealism in his films that - considering the period in which the films were made - virtually placed him in the avant-garde.  "I was just trying to get laughs" was his constant and stubborn answer to questions.  Keaton was, in fact, a brilliant analyst of film, as his dazzling film-within-a-film in Sherlock Jr. indicates: the sequence illustrates basic theories of continuity and cutting more vividly and with greater precision than theorists themselves have ever been able to do.  But the analysis is not in Keaton’s head.  It is in the film.  He went past cerebration and worked only with the thing itself, creating what amounts to theory out of his body, his camera, his fingers, a pair of scissors.  Art is often something done before it is something thought: Keaton’s impulses were not only stronger but more accurate than any verbal formulation he might have chosen to offer for them.  

- Walter Kerr on film artist Buster Keaton, The Silent Clowns, Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 1975, p. 98