Added Value

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I admit that it was hard to motivate myself to go see the 1926 German silent film Faust at the Detroit Film Theatre on Saturday, July 9, 2011. After all, it was a beautiful summer afternoon—not the ideal time to spend two hours watching a serious movie about a man struggling with the temptations of the Devil.

But I knew that attending the DFT is more than just watching a motion picture on a screen. There’s always added value, both in the regular activities of the theater and in the different special events that it presents.

Those differences start at the door, where friendly ticket takers greet you in a more personal way than you might get at a mainstream theater. They tell you about the Crystal Gallery Café, another special DFT feature where you can enjoy a wide variety of beverages and snacks in an elegant, sunlit atmosphere. As you relax in the café, you might spend some time reading the DFT program notes, which provide background information and opinions that add to your appreciation of the movie.

The 4 p.m. showing of Faust was part of the DFT 101 series—another unique offering that you won’t find at your local megaplex. DFT curator Elliot Wilhelm once again built up the audience’s anticipation for a DFT 101 screening with introductory comments. He talked about Faust director F. W. Murnau’s place in film history—his assertive, creative use of images to tell a story like no one else.

On this day, the most unique added value was the piano accompaniment of David Drazin, who also played the background music for another Murnau film (The Last Laugh) when the DFT 101 series kicked off in March 2010. David enhanced the dramatic images of Faust with nearly two hours of powerful music. He worked through different tempos and accents to make the story more personal.

And when Faust and Mephisto (the Devil) took off on a compelling ride across the sky, David’s piano playing surged relentlessly forward with an energy that swept up the audience in the drama of the story. He used a similar effect at the climax of the movie, when he reminded me of Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers when he throws 100-mph pitches in the eighth and ninth innings.

David’s stamina produced what was probably the equivalent of two or three piano concertos, played without interruption, with the dramatic images of Faust acting as an orchestral foundation. It earned him a rousing, standing ovation.

So, another satisfying visit to the DFT. And after I left the theater, there was still plenty of summer sunshine and warmth to enjoy. I took advantage of another added value of visiting the DFT—the beauty of the Cultural Center, where I walked, stopped in a quiet place to read for awhile, and enjoyed the splashing fountains of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

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Copyright © 2011 by Robert Hollberg Smith, Jr.

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