DFT Details

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The texture of the Detroit Film Theatre is often like a finely played piece of chamber music.

Delicate details like the architecture, program notes, ushers, and pre-film music stimulate the mind and emotions with unique sensations. In the space between these impressions, your own observations can linger.

I thought a lot about the atmosphere of the DFT on March 23, 2007 before and during the 2006 Turkish film Climates. After the young man at the door punched my ticket card, I glanced at the different items on the publicity tables in the inner lobby.

There were brightly colored postcard ads for upcoming films like Bamako (April 13-15), An Unreasonable Man (April 19-21) and Los Zafiros (May 3-6).

Another ad for the Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit’s presentation of City in a Strait in the DFT auditorium on May 11-13 and May 18-20. A publicity flyer for the book Rescuing Da Vinci (by Robert M. Edsel), on the same subject as the recent DFT movie about art theft during World War II, The Rape of Europa.

The review for Climates in the morning paper had seemed to get lost in the publicity for all the other new movies, like Reign Over Me and TNMT: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But here at the DFT, my anticipation for Climates grew, as I relaxed in the comfortable new seats.

As I waited for this 7 p.m. Friday showing of Climates, I could feel the tensions of the work week fading from my system. Some mysterious, airy modern music filled the auditorium, and on the screen came this friendly announcement:

Coming in April: New DFT Aisle Carpets in an Ebony & Gold “Adamesque” Pattern

Made possible by Friends of Detroit Film Theatre “Take Your Seat” donors like you!

Soon, FDFT Chairperson Margaret Thomas was on stage, promoting upcoming events like the dinner discussion at Twingo’s on April 8 that will follow the DFT’s 4 p.m. showing of the 1953 film The Earrings of Madame De…

On the screen, in Climates, I observed more careful details as a man and woman suffered through the tensions of a declining relationship amidst ancient ruins and breathtaking ocean scenery. It was a DFT-style film that might have seemed slow to many mainstream moviegoers, but was accepted by the DFT crowd as a patient, deliberate film essay that required active thought as you watched it.

In the stillness of many of the scenes, you could linger on details, like sunlit, stray strands of hair, or the glow from the tip of a cigarette on which someone was inhaling. The thick snowflakes of the movie’s final scenes were a filter that forced you to more closely look at what was happening.

The main male character struck me as an emotionally numb or immature person who wasn’t sure what he wanted; who quickly discarded things that he compulsively reached for. After the film, I appreciated the DFT handout, a February 15, 2007 Chicago Tribune review of Climates by Michael Phillips, who wrote, “The directors’ respective uses of space—vast, beautifully desolate, carefully framed—define the characters’ emotional lives.”

Breaking Up, Moving On

Climates helped me escape the world of work, but the second movie of this Friday night double bill brought me humorously back into it. Fired! was a film about losing your job. It was directed by and starred Annabelle Gurwitch, who was fired from a New York play by Woody Allen.

Interestingly, both Climates and Fired! were about breakups. Climates focused on the indecision and insecurity of failing relationships, while Fired! used a nice blend of satire and seriousness to take us through every phase of losing a job.

Getting fired or laid off can make you angry, and also scared. It shakes up your identity and sense of self-worth. But sooner or later you have to accept it, learn from it, and see what new opportunities it creates. You have to take control of your own life.

Losing your job happens to everybody—a message that probably made a strong impression on the many college-age people who attended Fired! You have to work at managing your career, just like the main characters in Climates will have to work at making a successful romantic relationship.

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Copyright © 2007 by Robert Hollberg Smith, Jr.


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