Search Museum of the Moving Image

See It Big! Comedies

Mar 15 — Mar 30, 2014

There are some forms of comedy that could only exist in cinema; comedies that have a distinctively visual worldview, in which the use of space, camera movement, composition, and physical performance all contribute to the humor. Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin created iconic, universal characters, the Great Stone Face and the Tramp—hapless yet resourceful heroes who find ways to survive in a cold, chaotic world. Ernst Lubitsch’s famous “touch” was reflected in his elegant and subtle use of visual motifs. Frank Tashlin brought the manic energy and inventiveness of his work as a cartoon director to live-action filmmaking, perfectly suiting his satirical sensibility. Steven Spielberg’s flair for spectacle was put to brilliant use in his epic and underrated slapstick gem 1941. Jerry Lewis proved to be a comic genius behind the camera as well as in front of it, and directed some of the finest screen comedies of the 1960s. Robert Altman’s loose, semi-improvisational ensemble approach was perfectly suited to the panoramic war satire M*A*S*H, the film that instantly made him one of the top-ranking film directors. Woody Allen’s collaborations with the unparalleled cinematographer Gordon Willis resulted in a string of comic masterpieces, none more enduring than Annie Hall. And finally, Billy Wilder shows in his classic Some Like it Hot what happens when visual style is paired with a brilliant screenplay and great casting—a perfect comedy that ends with the line “Nobody’s perfect.”

See It Big!
is an ongoing series organized by Reverse Shot editors Michael Koresky and Jeff Reichert, Chief Curator David Schwartz, and Assistant Film Curator Aliza Ma.