‘Twas the weekend before Christmas, and many movie-loving creatures were stirring in the Detroit Film Theatre, Michigan Theater, and Redford Theatre.
The Michigan and Redford brought their annual Christmas movie series to stirring climaxes with two well-loved films, while the DFT joined the holiday fun with an animated movie from France.
I enjoyed White Christmas at the Redford on Friday, December 19, 2014 and It’s a Wonderful Life at the Michigan on Sunday, December 21. I wrote in depth about these two movies six years ago (Christmas Double Feature), and these two cinematic pleasures continue to be as fresh as they were the first time that I saw them.
As I watched the two movies, I realized how strongly I looked forward to seeing certain scenes every year, including:
- In White Christmas, the Show Biz professionalism of the four stars during the big “Mandy” number; and the closeup of Anne Whitfield when she looks up to see Dean Jagger walking down the stairs in his military uniform.
- In It’s a Wonderful Life, the poignant dinner table scene with James Stewart and Samuel S. Hinds; and the heart-warming closeup of Donna Reed when she says, “Welcome home, Mr. Bailey.”
In recent years, these two movies have become the final Christmas movies of the year at their respective theaters. They act as a send-off to patrons to the last few days before Christmas Day.
It doesn’t hurt that both films finish with stirring crescendos of emotion in their last 10-15 minutes. For me, these final acts begin in White Christmas when Rosemary Clooney returns to the lodge after her nightclub scene, and in It’s a Wonderful Life when the snow starts falling on the bridge, a sign that James Stewart has returned to his normal life.
The DFT usually doesn’t show Christmas-themed movies, in part because it is often closed during the days around Christmas.
But this year, it added to the entertainment variety of the season with The King and the Mockingbird, an animated French film that started taking shape in the late 1940s and was completed in the late 1970s.
Its animation style was somewhere between the round, elastic style of 1930s and 1940s Walt Disney animation and the simple, clever style of the drawings of Babar the Elephant. The DFT program notes said that later Japanese animation was influenced by this film as well, and you could you could see a preview of that style in the direct, serious personalities of many of the characters.
As I watched The King and the Mockingbird on Saturday, December 20, I was captivated by the energetic imagination of the film’s creator Paul Grimault. The movie includes an elaborately mechanized city that was probably heavily influenced by the films Metropolis and Modern Times.
The DFT is an important part of the Detroit Institute of Arts. Before I watched The King and the Mockingbird, I looked at many artworks in the DIA that were inspired by the religious and historical roots of the Christmas season. It was a peaceful time of reflection, and complemented the colorful beauty of the many Christmas decorations that I enjoyed at the Michigan and Redford.
Copyright © 2014 by Robert Hollberg Smith, Jr.