A DFT Education

The Detroit Film Theatre is part of the Detroit Institute of Arts, whose mission statement reads, “The DIA creates experiences that help each visitor find personal meaning in art.”

With the new DFT season almost here (it starts February 15, 2007), I thought I’d take one last look at the Fall/Winter 2006 season, which ended two months ago (December 10, 2006). It was a good chance to look at the DFT in the light of the DIA mission statement.

I revisited some great weekends, such as October 12-15, when I saw The Fallen Idol, Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles, and The Face of Another. Idol gave me more insight into the working relationship of writer Graham Greene and director Carol Reed, who also teamed up on The Third Man.

Riding Alone helped me to see differences between two Asian countries—China and Japan. It also helped me appreciate the star power of a prominent actor from another country—the Japanese actor Ken Takakura.

Another memorable weekend was the season-ending December 8-10 showings of New York Doll, Pandora’s Box, and Street of Shame. Doll was a poignant lesson for Baby Boomers who are now facing old age. Pandora’s Box introduced many patrons to the sizzling vitality of Louise Brooks.

Street of Shame concluded a series of Sunday night films that focused on the personal, dreamlike movies of Japanese director Kenji Mizoguchi. This series added to the thorough education that DFT visitors have received in the last few years on classic Japanese cinema. Earlier retrospectives featured the work of Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu.

New Use for Seuss

Like many, I grew up on the tales and drawings of Dr. Seuss. The DFT’s October 28-29 presentation of The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T shined a completely different light on the talents of Dr. Seuss, who wrote the script and songs and designed the sets of this surreal fantasy from 1953.

A Sunday afternoon on November 19 with French actress Isabelle Huppert as Gabrielle reminded me of the strong lineup of star-studded European films that have appeared at the DFT.

And two films in September gave me more insight into the psychology of war and the personalities of its participants. Army of Shadows (September 15-17) showed me the cynical, messy side of heroism, as well as the mixed feelings that the French have about the Resistance effort of World War II.

And I’ll never forget the emotional power of The War Tapes, (September 22-24) in which three United States soldiers brought home video images of their courageous efforts in Iraq. I watched this film from the DFT balcony, and the film-ending sound of applause rising from the main floor will stay with me for a long time.

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Copyright © 2007 by Robert Hollberg Smith, Jr.

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