As we struggle through the transition from winter to spring to summer, the Detroit Movie Palaces wrapped up their current seasons, and gave us all something to look forward to when the weather is warmer.
On April 25, 2011, the Michigan Theater wrapped up its three-month-long Charles Chaplin series, with the bittersweet 1952 comedy Limelight. At the Redford Theatre, the January-April 2011 season finished on April 29 and 30 with a double feature of Tarzan’s Secret Treasure (1941) and Tarzan’s New York Adventure (1942).
And over at the Detroit Film Theatre, the final weekend of the Winter 2011 season on April 29-May 1 featured the mysterious Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives; the 1932 French war epic Wooden Crosses; and the sophisticated comedy Queen to Play.
Each theater provided its own special atmosphere and entertainment. Looking forward to the Monday night showing of Limelight helped me get through the first day of the workweek, and my visit to the Redford for the Tarzan double bill on Friday helped kick off the weekend. My DFT visit included a day-night Saturday doubleheader of Wooden Crosses and Uncle Boonmee.
It was a pleasurable series of five films in six days, and after it was done, I found myself making interesting connections between the movies:
- Limelight, Wooden Crosses, and Uncle Boonmee all had poignant and reflective death scenes that told me that one measure of a person’s life is what they are thinking about just before they leave it. What happy, important memories are you building up?
- The Tarzan movies and Uncle Boonmee both showed how people commune with nature. Tarzan (Johnny Weismuller) and Jane (Maureen O’Sullivan) both tried to emphasize to their visitors how happy they were living in the wild. In Uncle Boonmee, one significant scene took many of the movie’s characters into the depths of a cavern for an emotional, spiritual experience.
- The Cold War between the United States and Russia had many side stories, two of which relate to Limelight and Uncle Boonmee. At the time of the release of Limelight, Charles Chaplin was being accused of Communist sympathies, which contributed to his departure from the U.S. for about 20 years. And the title character of Uncle Boonmee, which was set in Thailand, expressed mixed feelings about killing communists.
- Limelight and the Tarzan movies both made me think about the benefits and burdens of an actor being associated with a particular role. In Limelight, Chaplin makes several visual and verbal references to his famous tramp character, and I was moved by his comments about performing in the street. And it’s remarkable how unique a talking style Johnny Weismuller created in the Tarzan character – a strange blend of basic English and jungle dialect that was probably a lot harder to do than it looked.
These movie visits all wrapped up seasons that started in the cold of winter and ended with a promising look to the future. The publicity table of the Michigan had its usual wide variety of flyers and brochures for future events, including the Whole Foods Market Do Something Reel Film Festival that plays at the Michigan on May 2-4.
At the Redford, the shiny May-August 2011 brochure made its debut, and patrons read about such coming attractions as The Sting on May 13-14 and Rebecca on May 27-28. And Elliott Wilhelm and Margaret Thomas of the DFT told audiences about the upcoming DFT season, which starts on June 9 and includes visits by film editor Richard Chew, who is spending some time at nearby Wayne State University this summer.
Copyright © 2011 by Robert Hollberg Smith, Jr.