Great Expectations

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Someone once said that people need three things in life: to love, to be loved, and to have something to look forward to.

Anticipation for upcoming films is one of the most fun parts of visiting the Detroit Movie Palaces. And when one of those movies is a personal favorite, the excitement can really build.

I felt that way a few years ago when the Redford showed my favorite John Wayne film—Red River. My Fair Lady at the Redford is always a special occasion. Over at the Michigan, I’ve anxiously awaited the occasional showings of Lawrence of Arabia or Godfather Part II.

My wish to see another great film on the big screen came true on April 6, 2007 when the Detroit Film Theatre presented the 1953 French film The Earrings of Madame De… I’d seen this romantic drama many times on the small screen, but never in a setting like the DFT.

I so excitedly looked forward to seeing Earrings that I wondered if I was setting myself up for a disappointment. The experience might not be as perfect as I hoped—always a dangerous expectation.

But as “Fin” flashed across the final scene of Earrings, and appreciative applause rose from the DFT crowd, I realized that I’d just had one of my best DFT experiences ever. The restored 35-millimeter print combined the best of two worlds—classic movies and foreign language films—into a stunning romantic drama by the relatively unknown German director Max Ophüls.

Superb Acting

Seldom have actors looked as real as Danielle Darrieux, Charles Boyer and Vittoria De Sica. Rarely has romantic love been expressed as radiantly as it was on De Sica’s face when he was with Darrieux. And the heartbreak of lost love was etched with authentic pain on Darrieux’s face in the last part of the film.

As much as I’d enjoyed video screenings of Earrings, the above impressions never came through as strongly as they did during the DFT showing. And that amazing music, highlighted by the beautiful theme that was repeated in very revealing ways throughout the film.

As the movie took hold of the audience, you could feel yourself being transported by the film’s astonishing quality. The music combined with the fluid camerawork to create a style that dramatically enhanced the substance. And Ophüls’s masterful direction included special attention to minor characters like doormen, chambermaids, valets, and shop assistants.

Bonus Treats

The DFT is using the three-day run of Earrings to provide other benefits for its faithful visitors. After the 4 p.m. showing of Earrings on Sunday, April 8, French historian Ken Garner will lead a discussion of the film at Twingos (on Cass near Wayne State University).

Janus Films was involved in the restoration of Earrings (and The Rules of the Game, which helped open the current DFT season). DFT visitors can buy a discounted copy of the Janus 50-film collection Essential Art House: 50 Years of Janus Films for $600 ($250 off the retail price) by entering the promotional code “DIA” when ordering from the Janus web site.

For every DIA-related purchase of these films, Janus Films will donate $50 to the theater restoration of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

As I left the DFT on this strange wintry April night, I wondered what could match my experience of seeing Earrings.

When I got home, I was pleasantly surprised to find the May-August 2007 schedule of the Redford Theatre in the mail. It included several great movies that I’ve never seen in a theater, like King Kong and The Best Years of Our Lives.

With the Detroit Movie Palaces, there’s always something to look forward to…

Detroit Movie Palaces Home Page

Copyright © 2007 by Robert Hollberg Smith, Jr.


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