In 1964, Buster Keaton's languishing career was experiencing a sort of semi-renaissance. Critics were rediscovering and wildly praising his great silent comedies of the '20s, and offers of movie and television roles were flooding in. But by and large, Keaton was popularly regarded as a quaint relic of Hollywood's distant past; he was never given anything larger than a cameo or supporting part, and certainly little that suited his deadpan, stoic, slightly surreal comic persona. The National Film Board of Canada attempted to rectify this by casting the nearly 70-year-old Keaton in The Railrodder, a short film depicting his travels across the Canadian landscape on a motorized handcar. Despite the laudable attempt to evoke Keaton's early work in two-reelers—as well as his thematic preoccupation with the fickle nature of machines—The Railrodder does not quite succeed as comedy, mainly due to the mildness of the gags and a paltry storyline. Keaton fans, however, will be fascinated by the companion piece Buster Keaton Rides Again, a documentary filmed during the shooting of The Railrodder. Although the film briefly touches upon Keaton's roller-coaster fortunes, his precipitous career decline is downplayed; instead, it offers a choice glimpse of a strikingly modest man with a dogged work ethic and a shrewdly intuitive grasp of the mechanics of screen comedy. Buster Keaton Rides Again is also filled with charming, slightly odd moments, like Keaton being serenaded by a phalanx of bagpipe players, trying on hats at a shopping mall, and getting a toy steam-powered tractor for his birthday.

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