June 25, 1916 [The Waiter's Ball]

After months of (admittedly duplicitous) moral pronouncements, I have accepted the film comedy—more of a return, to be honest, my love of the Lumières' "sprinkler sprinkled" re-emerging, my affection for Méliès' acrobatic demons re-affirmed. The truth is, the more I watch these crude and brutal gags, the more I enter a typically cinematic dream.

An illustration: Fatty Arbuckle and his restaurant nemesis—Al St. John, as thin as his counterpart is, well, not (and the both of them as ill-featured as Tenniel caricatures, liver-lipped and grimacing)—have at it, beating each others' backsides with brooms. And on and on the sequence grows—and just when I'm sick of it, a broom breaks, and all hostilities end so that the opponent can graciously fetch a new broom, and the beating begins again.

Everyday courtesies and frictions become rituals, and even Fatty's willingness to murder to acquire evening attire for the Waiter's Ball is merely another bending reality—social climbing as homicide—the world turned topsy-turvy, culminating in what appears to be Fatty's signature bit: the gender-switch, as he dons women's clothing for some kind of gain—always thwarted, of course (the dreamer must always awaken before the moment of consummation). The fact that he looks at once ridiculous and quite at home in women's garb is not so much amusing as it is bemusing—and so here again I am at last, on the other side, once more finding my way to the cinema's far shore, another contented dope in a moving-picture palace—happier than when I cast myself adrift. Fatty, as well, seems to enjoy the experience, gussied up and mincing along, batting eyelashes and bashing noggins; so who am I to interfere?


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